Air Canada Rouge has axed its seasonal direct flight between Kamloops and Toronto in the wake of the grounded Max 8 and 9 aircraft being kept out of operation until at least the middle of the year.
The A319 aircraft that would have served the non-stop Kamloops-Toronto flight have been pulled by Canada’s largest airline to support other flights in their network that would have been used Max 8 planes this summer.
“The weekly service won’t be retuning for the summer of 2020,” YKA airport manager Ed Ratuski confirmed to KTW, noting he has been in contact with the airline in the last 24 hours.
On Wednesday, Air Canada announced it has removed the Boeing 737 MAX from its operating schedule until June 30, 2020. Ratuski said that date is right in the middle of the summer travelling season, noting flights for those months are planned in advance.
“Most of the aircraft scheduling has been or is being conducted right now for the summer travel — all the carriers are going through that process right now,” Ratuski said.
WestJet this week also updated its schedule to remove the 737 Max aircraft through to June 24, 2020.
But that won’t impact the new direct flight between Kamloops and Edmonton Swoop Airlines, WestJet’s budget carrier, will run from late April and into October, Ratuski told KTW.
“Swoop does not operate the Max 8 aircraft, they fly the 737-800s, so that service is not impacted by the Max 8 issue,” Ratuski said.
The Boeing 737 MAX planes remain grounded after two of the models crashed last year in Indonesia and Ethiopia, killing all on board. A new system in the aircraft forced them to nosedive.
As for anyone who has already booked a flight between the Tournament Capital and Toronto on the now-suspended route, Ratuski said Air Canada advised him travellers will be contacted by the airline and either be rerouted through Vancouver or Calgary or receive a refund.
The Kamloops-Toronto flight was reduced from three times a week when it launched in June 2018 to once a week in July and August last year.
Ratuski said the flight performed well in 2019, noting capacity on the 10 flights that summer were generally in the 90 per cent range.
In 2018, Air Canada said flights must exceed 80 per cent capacity at the end of the season to be considered for continuation, but Ratuski told KTW on Wednesday a number of factors come in to play in an airline’s decision to support a route, such as aircraft availability and yield on a flight.
He said Kamloops Airport will be asking Air Canada to resume the Kamloops-to-Toronto route in the future, once the Boeing Max 8 issue is sorted out.
“That was a decision they had to make just based on aircraft availability during the peak summer season,” Ratuski said.
On a positive note, he said Air Canada advised him it will be increasing its service of Q-400 planes between Kamloops and Calgary this summer to three daily flights from it current two flights per day.
That increase, which is the result of demand for the route, is expected to begin in May and run until October, he said.
The added flight is a result of demand, which, Ratuski noted, can provide travellers additional options to head eastward toward Toronto on connecting flights.
Both Air Canada and West Jet set new dates for how long their fleets will be without the Boeing 737 Max 8 and 9 planes following an announcement by Boeing that it now estimates the planes will remain grounded by regulators until mid-2020.
The Canadian government grounded the airplanes and banned the jet from entering its airspace last March, acting on safety concerns arising from the crashes in Ethiopia and Indonesia.
Customers affected by these changes will be advised of their new itineraries and offered suitable travel options.
Final decisions on returning the 737 MAX to service will be based on Air Canada's safety assessment following the lifting of government safety notices and requisite approvals by the FAA and Transport Canada, according to an Air Canada press release.
According to WestJet, the airline has completed more than 98 per cent of its planned departures even while its 13 MAX aircraft remain on the ground.
"We thank our guests for their patience and our WestJetters for their commitment to keeping our airline moving safely and on time as we continue to adjust our schedule," Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO said. "We remain confident in the regulatory process undertaken by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) and Transport Canada to ensure the safe return of the aircraft."