Following a tragic Ethiopian Airlines collision that killed 157 passengers after crashing minutes after taking off from Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, countries around the world–including Canada–moved quickly to ground the aircraft involved in the incident.
The March incident marked the second fatal Boeing 737 MAX crash in less than six months. Last October, a Lion Air flight also crashed after taking off from Malaysia.
Today, Air Canada announced that it has adjusted its schedule through to April 30 to cover 98 per cent of its planned flying following Transport Canada’s closure of Canadian airspace to Boeing 737 MAX aircraft operations.
It also said it does not expect to fly the aircraft again until July 1.
“Air Canada is now updating its May schedule to further optimize its fleet and re-accommodate customers. Because the timeline for the return to service of the 737 MAX is unknown, for planning purposes and to provide customers certainty for booking and travel, Air Canada intends to remove 737 MAX flying from its schedule until at least July 1, 2019,” the airline said in a news release.
The airline acknowledges that grounding the plane while an investigation into its safety is conducted has caused some disruptions.
“The Boeing 737 MAX accounted for six per cent of Air Canada’s total flying, but there is a domino effect from removing the 737s from our fleet that impacts the schedule and ultimately will impact some customers. We have been working very hard to minimize that impact,” said Lucie Guillemette, executive vice president and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada, in a statement.
“To bring certainty to our schedule for our customers when booking and travelling, we are revising our schedule until July and we have taken several steps to continue delivering substantially all of our planned capacity through our global network.”
The airline says customers will be notified of any possible disruptions going forward.
“Customers who have travel plans between now and July can be reassured that we will keep them informed every step of the way as we revise our schedule. We have a deep global network and many partner airlines to provide solutions so serving our customers and minimizing any disruption is our first priority. We remain committed to delivering the same safe, reliable transportation customers expect from Air Canada. Customers can continue to book and travel on Air Canada with full confidence,” said Guillemette.
To mitigate the impact, Air Canada says it has been substituting different aircraft on 737 MAX routes. This includes flying routes with similar-sized or larger aircraft. To help provide this replacement flying, the carrier has extended leases for aircraft which were scheduled to exit the fleet.
The airline also says it has implemented a number of route changes to date, either changing operating times or substituting larger aircraft with fewer frequencies on routes operated more frequently by smaller aircraft.
In a small number of cases, Air Canada says it has temporarily suspended service on certain 737 MAX routes where alternative aircraft are not presently available. This includes flights from Halifax and St. John’s to London Heathrow, for which it is re-accommodating customers over its Toronto and Montreal hubs.
“Air Canada remains committed to these routes and will resume service as soon as possible. It also includes seasonal flights from Vancouver to Kona, Lihue and Calgary-Palm Springs, with customers re-accommodated on other routings,” the airline said in a news release.
As changes are finalized in the flight schedule, customers whose flight times or flight numbers have changed can expect to receive an email detailing their updated itinerary. The airline says this information is also available in My Bookings on the Air Canada app or Air Canada website.
Air Canada says it has also implemented a flexible rebooking policy with full fee waiver and a refund option for affected customers. Customers originally scheduled to travel on a 737 MAX can call Air Canada at 1-833-354-5963 for information within 72 hours of their planned flight.
Customers who have booked flights through a Travel Agent should contact them for immediate assistance.