Business Treaveler logo

Travel news, reviews and intel for high-flyers

Air Canada Takes Action to Mitigate Grounded 737 Max Impact

Plans include aircraft substitutions, schedule consolidations, and accelerating intake of new aircraft

Air Canada announced taking measures today intended to provide customers greater certainty for their upcoming travel plans. It further adjusted its schedule through to August 1 and started to obtain additional capacity so customers can book with confidence. The changes are in response to the continued grounding by Transport Canada of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, which has now been removed from Air Canada’s schedule until August 1.

“With the continued grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, Air Canada is prudently adjusting its schedule and is finalizing arrangements for additional aircraft to transport customers to their destinations. We understand the importance our customers attach to their summer travel and through the actions we are announcing today, Air Canada now has in place a schedule and the capacity to meet traveler needs,” said Lucie Guillemette, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada.

“Since the Boeing 737 MAX fleet was grounded on March 13, Air Canada has successfully protected 96 per cent of planned flying through strategic commercial adjustments. This includes optimizing the current fleet, consolidating flights on larger aircraft and extending leases on aircraft planned to exit the fleet.  By leveraging our deep, global network and through arrangements with Star Alliance partner Lufthansa and other airlines to provide capacity, we now have secured sufficient additional capacity to meet our customers’ travel needs this summer,” she said.

Air Canada grounded its fleet of 24 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in March. Boeing has advised deliveries of its 737 MAX have been currently suspended. Air Canada was expecting to receive another 12 aircraft for a total fleet of 36 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft in July.

As the timeline for the return to service of the 737 MAX remains unknown, Air Canada has now removed 737 MAX flying from its schedule until at least August 1, 2019. 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 approval by international regulatory authorities.

To mitigate the impact, Air Canada has substituted different aircraft on 737 MAX routes, including flying routes with similar-sized or larger aircraft. The carrier has extended leases for three Airbus A320 and three Embraer 190 aircraft, which were scheduled to exit the fleet.

Air Canada is also accelerating the in-take of six Airbus A321 aircraft from WOW Air into its fleet. For customer comfort, the first four of these aircraft, despite being less than three years old, are being reconfigured, equipped with Wi-Fi and repainted in Air Canada Rouge livery and will begin entering the fleet in May, a month earlier than scheduled. The remaining two will enter service later.

The carrier is also working with other airlines to provide immediate extra capacity and provide alternative options to customers. Air Canada’s Montreal-Frankfurt flight for the month of May will be operated by Star Alliance partner Lufthansa.

Beginning June 15, Qatar Airways will operate one Airbus A330-200 on daily flights between Montreal and Barcelona and one Airbus A330-200 daily flight between Montreal and Paris.  Beginning June 2, Omni Air International will operate flights with one Boeing 767-200ER aircraft between Vancouver and Honolulu and Maui.

In some cases, Air Canada has been substituting larger aircraft with fewer frequencies, or re-deploying Air Canada Rouge aircraft on additional routes. For example, Air Canada’s Montreal-Bordeaux flights will be operated three times weekly with Air Canada Rouge Boeing 767-300ER aircraft; Montreal-Los Angeles will operate once daily with larger Airbus A330 aircraft; Toronto and Montreal flights to Keflavik will operate with Air Canada Rouge A319s, and one of two daily flights between Toronto-Charlottetown will be operated with an all-Economy Air Canada Rouge Airbus A321, among other adjustments.

Some seasonal route launches have been delayed. This includes the new Montreal-Bordeaux seasonal route that will begin July 1 instead of June 15, and the seasonal Vancouver-Boston route commencing June 20 instead of June 1.  

Route Suspensions

In some cases, Air Canada has had to temporarily suspended service on certain 737 MAX routes where alternative aircraft are not presently available. These suspensions include flights from Halifax and St. John’s to London Heathrow, for which it is re-accommodating customers over its Toronto and Montreal hubs.

Other seasonal non-stop routes such as Toronto-Shannon, Toronto-Abbotsford and Calgary-London, ON are being suspended for the 2019 summer season to optimize Air Canada’s entire fleet throughout the schedule. Customers will be re-accommodated on alternate flights.  Air Canada plans to resume these routes in the 2020 summer season.

Updated information on suspensions, alterations and rebooking is available in “My Bookings” on the Air Canada app or Air Canada website. Customers are advised, whether they have booked directly through Air Canada or not, to ensure their contact information is on their booking to facilitate communication of any flight changes. A flexible rebooking policy with full fee waiver and a refund option is in place for affected customers.