Category: Air Canada

Lone Boeing 737 Max criss-crossed Canada for pilot checks during grounding

News provided by The Globe and Mail – link to full story & audio, plus updates


Two Air Canada Boeing 737 Max 8 aircrafts are seen on the ground as Air Canada Embraer aircraft flies in the background at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto on March 13, 2019.CHRIS HELGREN/REUTERS

While the world’s Boeing 737 Max fleet remains grounded after two fatal crashes, a solitary Air Canada plane has been spotted in the skies, shuttling between Quebec and Ontario.

In a rare exemption, approved by Canadian aviation regulator Transport Canada, the 11 flights in August and September were partly to maintain the qualifications of senior training pilots, Air Canada told Reuters in response to a query about flight tracking data.

A spokesman for Air Canada said the airline was not able to use similar 737s within its fleet “to maintain check pilot authority in alignment with (Canadian aviation regulations)”.

“So we are utilizing the 737 Max during planned maintenance movements to maintain qualification.”

Between Aug 28 and Sept 8, the Air Canada Max plane criss-crossed between Montreal, Val d’Or, Quebec and North Bay, Ontario, data from Tracking website FlightRadar24 shows.

Then last week, it was flown to Pinal Airpark in Arizona to be parked in a desert storage site.

Although unusual after the grounding imposed worldwide in March amid concerns over an anti-stall system, the flights highlight growing pressures facing some airlines as they prepare for the return to service of the 400-plane Boeing fleet.

The planes have been sitting idle since March following two crashes in the space of five months.

For airlines like Air Canada, which did not have earlier versions of Boeing 737s in their fleets, this has made it difficult to make sure pilots can demonstrate the skills required to retain their licenses.

As North America’s sole Max operator which had not flown the earlier 737NG, Air Canada cannot use that model to maintain the qualifications of its check or trainer pilots, the company said.

So regulator Transport Canada authorized a select group of Air Canada’s check pilots to fly the grounded jet, which was also conducting maintenance flights, the airline said.

All the jets have the same control software suspected of contributing to the accidents, which Boeing is now in the process of revising to smooth its impact. However, some pilots have said existing procedures can prevent similar accidents.

Boeing declined to comment.


Transport Canada said in an e-mail that it authorized the flights “because the carrier does not operate the Boeing 737 NG aircraft, but the pilots still need to maintain currency.”

However, one U.S. carrier questioned by Reuters said such flights would not be possible in the United States where pilot training was not included in a list of exemptions to the ban issued by the Federal Aviation Administration.

“Pilot currency isn’t a listed exemption in the U.S. order,” an FAA spokeswoman confirmed.

North American Max operators, including Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Canada’s WestJet Airlines, said they would only move their Max jets for maintenance and storage purposes.

Air Canada’s position as a newly-converted 737 operator follows a seven-year battle between Boeing and Airbus over the introduction of airplanes offering bold new fuel savings.

The introduction of the Max, an upgrade of earlier 737 models with advanced new engines, coincided with a bitter contest for market share between Boeing and Europe’s Airbus, which was offering its similar A320neo.

The feud saw both plane makers use the transition to a new generation of jets to try to poach each other’s customers, and traders said Air Canada’s 2013 decision to switch from Airbus’s A320 family to Boeing’s 737 Max stood out as a major defection.

Now, the decision to switch suppliers potentially weighs on some of those same airlines as they cope without a 737 fleet.

Boeing has predicted that the 737 Max will be cleared to take passengers early next quarter.

The FAA, facing growing international scrutiny over its certification processes, has said it cannot give a precise date for the approval of software and training changes carried out in the wake of the two accidents, which killed 346 people.

FAA chief Stephen Dickson plans to fly to Seattle this week to test modified 737 Max software in a simulator.

Air Canada To Begin Year-Round Flights From Montreal to Bogotá, Colombia

Provided by Air Canada

  • Bogotá represents Air Canada’s 39th new route launched from Montreal since 2012, 12th new route since 2017
  • Complements Toronto-Bogotá service

MONTREAL, Sept. 18, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada today announced the introduction of new year-round service between Montreal and Bogotá, Colombia beginning June 2, 2020. Flights will operate three times weekly onboard Air Canada Rouge Boeing 767-300ER aircraft offering a choice of premium and economy service.

Special introductory fares start as low as $795 round-trip, all in, and tickets are now available for purchase at or through travel agents.

Air Canada today announced the introduction of new year-round service between Montreal and Bogotá, Colombia beginning June 2, 2020 (CNW Group/Air Canada)
Air Canada today announced the introduction of new year-round service between Montreal and Bogotá, Colombia beginning June 2, 2020 (CNW Group/Air Canada)

“We are very pleased to offer the only non-stop, year-round flights connecting Montreal and Bogotá, two vibrant cities steeped in history and culture. This new route complements our existing Toronto-Bogotá service, and positions Air Canada as a significant player linking the growing markets between Montreal and Colombia’s capital and largest city. The addition of Bogotá represents Air Canada’s 39th new route launched from Montreal-Trudeau Airport since 2012, firmly illustrating our commitment to developing Montreal as an important, strategic hub. Bogotá is also strategically situated to allow for seamless travel across South America through Star Alliance partner Avianca,” said Mark Galardo, Vice President of Network Planning at Air Canada.

“For several years now, Aéroports de Montréal has been wanting to improve service from YUL to destinations in South America. While a flight to Sao Paolo will be inaugurated in a few weeks, Air Canada is doubling the stakes by adding this new direct connection to Bogotá, Colombia,” said Philippe Rainville, President and CEO of Aéroports de Montréal. “In addition to greatly facilitating air travel for members of Montreal’s very large Colombian community, this announcement once again affirms YUL’s role as a hub for international air traffic. We are confident that this destination will be extremely popular with travellers. And we thank our partner Air Canada who is sparing no effort to continue improving the range of destinations offered from Montreal.”

“This is a very exciting announcement. We are looking forward to connecting our capital city with Montreal, the global leader in digital art and creativity, which will further advance the growth of the creative industries sector in Colombia. This new route will also enable a greater number of Canadians to experience 21st century Colombia; a vibrant country that stands out for its opportunities in innovation and entrepreneurship, and for its unparalleled offer of sustainable tourism,” said Federico Hoyos, Colombia’s Ambassador to Canada.

“More excellent news for Montreal, its economic dynamism and international influence. The announcement of this year-round service between our city and Bogotá will be positive for Montrealers and we are delighted,” said Robert Beaudry, head of economic development, trade and housing on the City of Montreal’s executive committee.

“This new flight consolidates Montreal’s position as a hub, with openness and international accessibility. This is excellent news for developing the South American market, which has grown by more than 50% in recent years. Tourisme Montréal salutes the efforts of Air Canada. This new direct air link will undoubtedly be a tourism and economic success for Montreal, confirming its status as a gateway to Canada,” said Yves Lalumière, President and CEO of Tourisme Montréal.

FlightDepartsArrivesDays of Week
AC1952Montreal 22:45Bogotá 04:15 + 1 dayTuesday, Thursday, Saturday
AC1953Bogotá 09:00Montreal 16:20Wednesday, Friday, Sunday

Flights are timed to optimize connectivity to and from Air Canada’s extensive network at its Montreal hub. In addition, flights are timed to connect to Star Alliance partner Avianca’s network to other destinations including Medellin, Cartagena, Cali, Lima, Cuzco, Guayaquil and Quito.

Customers can also collect and redeem Aeroplan Miles through Canada’s leading loyalty program when travelling with Air Canada, and eligible customers have access to priority check-in, Maple Leaf Lounges, priority boarding and other benefits.

Air Canada to Launch Dreamliner Service from Ottawa to London-Heathrow

Provided by Air Canada/CNW

MONTREAL, Sept. 10, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada announced today it will upgrade its non-stop flights from Ottawa to London-Heathrow to operate the daily service with its state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Beginning next spring, customers travelling between Ottawa and London-Heathrow will have the option to fly in Air Canada’s Signature cabin, featuring fully lie-flat suites, as well as the added choice of a Premium Economy cabin. 

“Air Canada is pleased to offer customers travelling between Ottawa and London-Heathrow the added comfort of service aboard our flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Customers love this aircraft whose revolutionary design improves the on-board air quality, which, combined with other features such as our next generation cabin, mood lighting and other amenities, mitigates jet lag. As a result, customers arrive better rested to hit the ground running for either business or pleasure. With the Dreamliner, we are also now offering customers flying between Ottawa and London the additional option of Air Canada’s Premium Economy cabin,” said Mark Galardo, Vice President, Network Planning at Air Canada.  

The 255-seat Boeing 787-8, configured in three cabins of service, will be dedicated year-round to the route beginning March 29, 2020. It will replace a 211-seat Boeing 767-300ER with two cabins of service.

Also today, Air Canada announced it is suspending its summer seasonal, Ottawa-Frankfurt service. The last flight on this route will be operated on October 24, 2019. Customers travelling to Europe from Ottawa next summer will have an additional option to fly to Frankfurt on a new seasonal service provided by our Star Alliance partner Lufthansa, which will begin operating on May 16th, 2020 and end October 24, 2020. 

WestJet cancels 10 Sask. flights to sunny locations after Max 8 grounding continues

News provided by CBC News – link to full story and updates

Flights to Phoenix, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta affected, not known when flights will return to normal

CBC News · Posted: Sep 10, 2019

A Boeing 737 Max 8 in Westjet’s hangar in Calgary. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

Saskatchewan travellers looking to fly south for the winter this year might be in for a bumpy ride.

This week, WestJet announced flight cancellations from airports in Regina and Saskatoon. 

The company blamed the disruptions on Boeing’s 737 Max 8 jets. The planes were pulled from service by Transport Canada after 346 people were killed in crashes involving Indonesia’s Lion Air in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines in March of this year. Both incidents involved the Max 8.

“Guests who hold a current reservation impacted by this update will be notified proactively if there are changes to their itinerary,” wrote WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell. “Where possible, we will work to substitute other aircraft directly onto a route and will not impact a guests itinerary so notifications will not be necessary.”

The following flights will be affected:

  • Saskatoon-Phoenix: Three weekly flights suspended.
  • Regina-Orlando: One weekly flight suspended.
  • Regina-Phoenix: Three weekly flights suspended.
  • Regina-Cancun: suspended one weekly flight in November. WestJet will operate one weekly flight in December.
  • Regina–Puerto Vallarta: One weekly flight suspended. WestJet will continue to operate once weekly in November. Two weekly flights will be suspended in December.

Air Canada and Sunwing had already announced plans to pull all Max 8s from its schedule until next year.

WestJet said the suspensions are temporary and that flights will resume once the Max 8 is cleared to return to service. However, that won’t happen until January 5, at the earliest. 

Transport Canada hasn’t said when the ban will be lifted.

Boeing says a system designed to help keep the Max 8 stable seemed to be a factor in each crash.

Many other governing bodies, including China, the United States and the European aviation authority, have banned the planes from their airspace.

WestJet currently owns 13 Max 8 jets, accounting for 10 per cent of its fleet.

Many other flights from Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto have also been affected.

With files from Ian Hanomansing

Drone Delivery Canada Announces Commercial Agreement with Vision Profile

Provided by Drone Delivery Canada/CNW

ORONTO, Sept. 10, 2019 /CNW/ – Drone Delivery Canada Corp. (TSXV: FLT, OTC: TAKOF) (the “Company” or “DDC“) is pleased to announce that with the assistance of its sales agent Air Canada Cargo (TSX: AC),  it has entered into a commercial agreement dated September 9, 2019 (the “Agreement“) with Vision Profile Extrusions Limited (“Vision“), a prominent manufacturing company, to deploy a drone delivery platform for the use of Vision between its properties in Vaughan, Ontario.

Pursuant to the terms of the Agreement, DDC will deploy its DroneSpot takeoff and landing zones as well as additional drone flight infrastructure on the Vision sites, and deploy its Sparrow cargo drone, with a capacity of up to 10lbs, on defined flight routes between Vision’s properties in Vaughan, Ontario, which routes have already been approved by Transport Canada. Flights will be remotely monitored by DDC from its new commercial operations centre also located in Vaughan, Ontario. DDC expects to begin providing drone delivery services under the Agreement in Q4, after deployment of the client site infrastructure is completed.

In consideration for the drone delivery services platform that DDC will provide to Vision, Vision will pay DDC a monthly fee for each drone route. Vision will also allow DDC to showcase its services platform on the Vision sites so that DDC and Air Canada Cargo may promote drone delivery services. The services will be provided by DDC for an initial term of twelve months, with additional successive one year terms to follow unless the Agreement is formally terminated.

“We are pleased to be working with Vision Profile Extrusions Limited and our sales agent Air Canada Cargo to roll out our first paid commercial project using our proven Sparrow drone, patented FLYTE system, and newly built commercial operations centre,” said Michael Zahra, President & CEO of DDC. “Our focus is to commercialize our industry-leading solution.  We are pleased to see the first green shoots of our plans realized and drive revenue for our shareholders. We have a robust funnel of opportunities and we expect this will be the first of many to come globally. I would like to thank our employees and partners whose dedication has allowed us to achieve this first, albeit important milestone”.

Canadian passengers scramble after British Airways cancels flights due to strike

News provided by BNN Bloomberg – link to full story and updates

The Associated Press, 9 September 2019

WATCH: Video

British Airways Pilots’ Two-Day Strike Grounds Nearly All Flights

LONDON — Canadian travel agencies are scrambling to help passengers whose British Airways flights have been cancelled on Monday and Tuesday after a pilots strike grounded the global carrier.

The airline says more than a dozen flights between Canada and London are slated to be cancelled over the two days, affecting about 3,500 passengers based on the size of the scheduled aircraft.

Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is most impacted with four flights each day. One arrival and one departure are cancelled over the two days in Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary.

“Customers were sent email notifications if they have been affected,” British Airways said in an advisory to travel agents.

Passengers can receive refunds or rebook for later flights. They may also be able to rebook on partner airlines such as American Airlines, Finnair and Aer Lingus, if seats are available.

Toronto travel agency TTI Travel says some customers have called to inquire but there doesn’t appear to be any alarm.

“We’ve been looking at flights and trying to re-accommodate them and make some decisions around how we support them and what those options are,” said TTI vice-president Lucy Lavigna.

Air Canada says it has added larger aircraft on the route between Toronto and London-Heathrow to accommodate increased demand it has seen in recent days.

“Last night we operated one flight on the route (we have four flights daily) with a 400-seat, Boeing 777 instead of the scheduled 298-seat Boeing 787-9, and will do the same tonight,” said spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick by email.

“That makes for a total of about 400 extra seats in the market. We continue to monitor the situation, but there are no plans for additional capacity at this time, in part because our aircraft are already committed under the existing schedule.”

WestJet Airlines said it’s “business as usual” for the Calgary-based airline.

British Airways cancelled almost all its flights for 48 hours, affecting as many as 195,000 travellers, due to a strike by pilots over pay.

The U.K.’s flagship carrier said in a statement Monday that it had “no way of predicting how many (pilots) would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly.”

As a result, it said it had “no option but to cancel nearly 100 per cent” of its flights for the duration of the strike.

“We have supplemented our fleet by using aircraft and crew from other airlines (wet-leasing) and working with our partner airlines to schedule larger aircraft to take the maximum number of customers,” said the trade support website that details customer guidelines.

British Airways operates up to 850 flights a day. London’s sprawling Heathrow Airport was most affected by the work stoppage as it is the airline’s hub and is used for many of the company’s long-haul international flights.

The departure area at Heathrow Terminal 5 was almost empty, with only a handful of BA flights set to leave on Monday.

There were no queues at any of the check-in desks or security gates and only a handful of people waiting on benches. The terminal is typically quite busy.

British Airways said it stands ready to return to talks with the pilots’ union, Balpa, and that it has offered all affected customers full refunds or the option to rebook. The airline had been preparing for weeks for the strike, giving travellers advanced notice.

“We understand the frustration and disruption Balpa’s strike action has caused our customers,” it said.

“After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this.”

British Airways says it has offered pilots an 11.5 per cent pay raise over three years but the union says its members want a bigger share of the company’s profits.

The union accuses British Airways of making big profits at the expense of workers who made sacrifices during hard times. British Airways’ parent company, IAG, made a net profit of 2.9 billion euros (US$3.2 billion) last year.

Union leader Brian Strutton said pilots are determined to be heard.

“They’ve previously taken big pay cuts to help the company through hard times. Now BA is making billions of pounds of profit, its pilots have made a fair, reasonable and affordable claim for pay and benefits.”

A further strike is penciled in for Sept. 27.

— With files from The Canadian Press

Crackdown on Canadian airlines nothing more than a ‘token gesture’: advocate

News provided by – link to full story and updates


An airplane prepares to land at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Thursday September 30, 2004. Air safety authorities say the runway setup at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport poses a serious risk of crashes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Adrian Wyld


  • WestJet was fined $17,500, Air Canada was fined $12,500, Air Transat and Porter Airlines were fined $7,500 each
  • Air passenger protection regulations allow a fine of $25,000 per infraction

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — A passenger rights advocate is calling the $45,000 fine imposed on four Canadian airlines a “token gesture,” saying regulations allow for them to be fined 10 times as much.

Gábor Lukács, founder of Air Passenger Rights, says the fine is a drop in the bucket for airlines and sends a clear signal to passengers.

“The message that this lousy fine is sending to the public and the airlines is that the regulator is not really wiling to enforce rights of passengers,” he says.

WestJet Airlines Ltd. was fined $17,500, Air Canada was fined $12,500, and Air Transat and Porter Airlines were fined $7,500 each for breaching federal regulations.

Air passenger protection regulations allow a fine of $25,000 per infraction, meaning the airlines could have been on the hook for a combined $450,000.

Lukácssays the announcement of the fines is nothing more than “smoke and mirrors,” strategically timed to try to convince Canadians that the current government cares about passenger right before the federal election.

The rule that the airlines violated was one that states airlines must display a notice at the check-in desk, self-service kiosks and departure gate that passengers who are denied boarding or whose luggage is lost or damaged may be entitled to compensation.

The regulator says airlines failed to alert travellers to their rights ahead of several flights out of Halifax, Quebec City, Calgary and Edmonton between July 22 and Aug. 7.

New rules came into effect July 15 beefing up compensation for passengers whose flights were delayed or luggage damaged, which have been met with criticism from both the industry and consumer advocates.

Under the new rules, airlines will now have to provide compensation — up to a maximum of $2,400 — to anyone bumped from a flight. Changes also mean airlines will have to compensate passengers if their flight is severely delayed, if their luggage is lost, or if flights are overbooked, as long as the situation is within the company’s control.

Airlines won’t fly Max 8 in Canada until 2020, at the earliest: How that affects you

News provided by CBC News – link to full story

Air Canada, Sunwing and now WestJet have said they won’t be flying their Max 8 planes this year

CBC News · Posted: Sep 05, 2019

A WestJet Boeing 737 Max 8 is seen at the Calgary International Airport in this file photo. (Janos Englert)

Calgary-based WestJet has announced it will keep its Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft out of service during its winter schedule from Nov. 4 to Jan. 5, making it the latest Canadian carrier to commit to keeping the planes grounded until early 2020, at least.

Transport Canada has yet to give the jets permission to fly after Max 8 planes were grounded across the world in March, following two fatal crashes.

WestJet says the changes will show up on its website starting Sept. 8 and those with reservations affected by the update will be notified of any changes to their itinerary.

Air Canada and Sunwing Airlines have already announced they won’t be flying their Max 8 planes until next year.

Travel agent Lesley Keyter says those with bookings that might be affected should be diligent about keeping up to date on the status of their flights.

“If they’ve booked it directly, themselves, with the airline, they need to keep an eye out, keep their booking number, keep going to the website, keep checking their flights,” she said.

She also advised to make sure your email is entered properly with the airline’s booking system so that you receive any notifications that they send.

WestJet says it will work to substitute other aircraft, where possible, and notes it has maintained 98 per cent of total, planned departures since the Max 8 planes were grounded.

Aviation analyst Rick Erickson isn’t expecting major disruptions.

“They’ve been doing this all throughout the whole of the summer,” he said. “That means that they’re fairly well equipped to be able to operate with the challenge of quite a few number of seats no longer in their network.”

There’s still been no word on when the Max 8 might be recertified to fly in Canadian airspace.

With files from Dave Gilson

Westjet drops 737 Max 8 from busy holiday-season flight schedule

News provided by CBC News – link to full story and video

WATCH: Videos

Decision means no Canadian airlines expected to use aircraft until 2020 even if it’s cleared to fly

Ian Hanomansing · CBC News · Sep 04, 2019

One of Westjet’s grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 jets, seen in the airline’s hangar in Calgary. Transport Canada has not yet indicated when the passenger planes could be cleared to fly again. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

Forty one aircraft, three Canadian airlines and almost six months out of service. The grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 is affecting Canadian flights from coast to coast, and for Westjet passengers it’s now clear that impact will continue through the busy end-of-year holiday season.

Transport Canada has not yet given the jets permission to fly, but even if it does so before the end of the year, CBC News has learned Westjet will not be including the Max 8 jets in its holiday-season schedule, one of the peak travel times of the year.

Air Canada and Sunwing had already announced they won’t be flying their Max 8s until next year.

It’s possible the Boeing jets may be recertified to fly before the end of 2019 — Transport Canada isn’t saying when that might happen. But Brian Znotins, Westjet’s vice-president in charge of scheduling at the company’s headquarters in Calgary, says his airline made the decision because it needed to give passengers some certainty in making holiday bookings.

If the Max 8 is allowed to fly in December, at most Znotins says the airline might consider an occasional flight to ease demand.

“It’s a little harder to unmix the cake at that point, but we would look at peak days, the Friday before Christmas [for example] where we can still sell seats and we’ll put the airplane back in.”

No-fly decision

Until now, very little has been heard from Canadian airlines about the ongoing impact of the Max 8’s problems. But Westjet agreed to talk to CBC’s The National about the effects of the grounding on the airline’s operations.

The issue with the Max 8  began with two disasters: A total of 346 people killed in crashes involving Indonesia’s Lion Air in October 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines in March of this year.

A Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8, parked on the tarmac of Soekarno Hatta International airport near Jakarta, Indonesia. All Max 8 jets, about 350 in service around the world, have been grounded since March this year. (Willy Kurniawan/Reuters)

Investigators were troubled by the similarity between the crashes. Pilots on both planes appeared to be struggling to maintain control of their aircraft when they went down.

Boeing has acknowledged the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), designed to activate automatically to help keep a plane stable, seemed to be a factor in each crash. It appears erroneous air speed data triggered MCAS, which tried to push the nose of the jet down to increase speed while the pilots fought to counteract it.

In the days after the first crash on Oct. 29, 2018, some U.S. pilots complained Boeing hadn’t revealed that MCAS was embedded in the Max 8’s software. Speaking publicly for the first time on this issue, Westjet’s vice-president of flight operations, Scott Wilson, told CBC News that Westjet shared that concern.

“Our job as pilots is to know and understand the aircraft so that we can apply that knowledge in a normal and not normal situation,” he says. Not being told about MCAS, “created a bit of a trust deficit. There’s no doubt about it.”

Wilson adds that he made that erosion of trust clear to Boeing. “Absolutely. And they are well aware they’ve got to basically rebuild that gap.”

After the Lion Air disaster, he says the three Canadian airlines that fly the Max 8 worked with Boeing and Transport Canada to review pilot training and procedures, what Wilson called “a made-in-Canada solution.” He adds that the airlines were confident its pilots could fly the jet safely as a result.

But then on March 10 came the second catastrophic crash, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302. Within hours, Wilson says Transport Canada was again in contact with Air Canada, Sunwing and Westjet, sharing information about the tragedy and assessing the safety of the jets.

An emergency crew works at the scene of the Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crash near Bishoftu, south of Addis Ababa, on March 11. All 157 people aboard the aircraft were killed. (Mulugeta Ayene/Associated Press)

“Obviously we’d never move an aircraft ever without a 100-per-cent assurance of its safety … and the information that we had at the time led us to believe that at that moment, that there was no increased risk to operating the aircraft,” Wilson says.

But governments around the world began taking action. The day after the Ethiopian crash, China banned the Max 8 from its airspace, and the next day the European aviation authority did the same. Three days after the crash, Canada and then the United States followed suit. 

At the time, Canada’s Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said there was new satellite data on the Ethiopian crash, “suggesting a possible although unproven similarity in the flight profile of the Lion Air aircraft.” 

Wilson explains that the data appeared to show that MCAS played a role in both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines disasters. It wasn’t conclusive, but it was enough to ban the Max from carrying passengers in Canadian airspace.

All Boeing 737 Max 8s — about 350 planes flown by more than 50 airlines around the world — have been grounded ever since, as the manufacturer works to fix the problem and prove to aviation officials that the aircraft is safe.

Scott Wilson, Westjet’s vice-president of flight operations, in front of a grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 in the airline’s Calgary hangar. He says issues around software in the jet have created ‘a trust deficit’ between pilots and Boeing. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

Challenging logistics

For Westjet, the grounding has left 13 jets parked at airports from Vancouver to Toronto, about 10 per cent of the airline’s seats. That has created an ongoing challenge for the airline’s schedulers and maintenance team.

The person in charge of maintenance, John Kelly, says his airline’s Max 8s are essentially ready to fly — their fluids are checked every 48 hours, and once a week each jet is powered up, taxis and then is parked again.

Watch: CBC NewsKeeping the 737 Max 8 flight-ready

Westjet’s vice-president of technical operations, John Kelly, takes CBC’s Ian Hanomansing into the wheel well of a Boeing 737 MAX 8 to explain how the airline is keeping the aircraft flight-ready while they’re grounded. 0:40

Standing in the gleaming Westjet hanger in Calgary, Kelly explained that the biggest challenge in this grounding hasn’t been the maintenance involved in keeping the Max 8s on standby, but the need to get more hours from the rest of the airline’s fleet.

“We pulled some planes out of heavy maintenance to help fly the schedule. We’re doing a lot more work on the other airplanes to keep them healthy and keep them flying.”

Among the work that’s been deferred is the job of putting new seats in Premium class of the airline’s older 737s, for example.

Mechanics do maintenance work on a Boeing 737 Max 8 in Westjet’s hangar in Calgary. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

Making planes available is just the first part of the puzzle. Then comes reworking the flight schedule.

If you want a sense of the complexity of running an airline, walk through its operations centre. For Westjet it’s a room about the size of a gymnasium, filled with people tracking planes, watching the weather and calculating flight plans. When CBC News visited the centre, one of the scheduling issues the team was dealing with was fog in Prince George that had led to a two hour delay, which in turn affected that plane’s upcoming Vancouver-Victoria-Vancouver trip.

Weather problems are a fact of life for airlines. The impact of removing 13 jets for an indefinite period is infinitely more complicated.

That’s been the responsibility of Brian Znotins. With the uncertainty over when the jets will be returned to service, he has revised the airline’s flight schedule five times.

He compares the process to building a house. “You take away 7 per cent of the bricks and you still want to build that house and you have to get pretty creative.”

Brian Znotins oversees long-term scheduling for Westjet. He says uncertainty around when the 737 Max 8 will be able to return to passenger service has required the airline to revamp its schedules a number of times in recent weeks. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

In a July 29 interview, WestJet chief executive Ed Sims told CBC News that the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max 8 is having a “substantial negative impact” on the airline. He declined to give specifics on the financial hit, but said the grounding has forced WestJet to increase spending on fuel and cut routes.

One summer route — Halifax to Paris — was cancelled for the season, for example. A direct flight from Vancouver to Regina has also been suspended. Some daytime flights have been moved to overnight. But with its older 737s flying more often, Znotins says Westjet has been able to maintain 98 per cent of what would have been its schedule with the Max 8s in the air.

It’s a similar story at Air Canada. The bigger airline had a fleet of 24 Max 8s, and was expecting 12 more by the end of June. Asked about the impact of the grounding on its operations, Air Canada directed CBC to its most recent quarterly report, which states the airline has managed to cover “97 per cent of our planned flying” without those aircraft. 

Aviation analyst Rick Ericksen says he’s impressed with how Canadian airlines are coping and how all three have handled the grounding. But he says that aside from the lost revenue, the airlines have very little excess aircraft capacity left at the moment to deal with any other problems that may arise.

Awaiting clearance

The question remains: when will the Max 8 be cleared to fly again?

All Transport Canada will say is that it “will not lift the current flight restriction … until it is fully satisfied that all concerns have been addressed by the manufacturer and U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and adequate flight crew procedures and training are in place.”

Air Canada has announced it won’t fly the Max 8 any sooner than Jan. 8, 2020.

For Sunwing, it’s May. 

Westjet may be the best positioned of the three Canadian airlines to get the Max 8s up quickly once the flight restriction is lifted. Its Max pilots have been active, flying the airline’s older-model 737s. Kelly, in charge of maintenance, says after a software update the Max 8s should be ready to fly.

But vice-president of flight operations Scott Wilson concedes there is another challenge the airlines will face: attracting passengers who may be reluctant to fly on a plane that’s suffered two recent crashes.

Watch The National’s story about how the Boeing 737 Max 8 grounding is affecting operations at Westjet:

We go in-depth with WestJet to find out how the grounding of its 737 Max fleet is hitting customers, and the airline itself.

Airlines fined $45,000 for violating new passenger regulations

News provided by CTV News – link to full story

Vancouver International Airport
A Westjet Boeing 737-800, left, taxis past an Air Canada Rouge Airbus A319 at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday, April 28, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Ryan Flanagan, Writer Thursday, September 5, 2019

Four major Canadian airlines have been fined for not complying with the new passenger protections that came into effect earlier this summer.

The Canadian Transportation Agency says Air Canada, WestJet, Porter Airlines and Air Transat have all been penalized since the rules changed on July 15.

In all cases, the airlines were found to have failed to display required notices to passengers. Airlines are required to display information about passenger rights at check-in counters, self-service check-in machines and boarding gates.

WestJet was fined $17,500 for seven violations, Air Canada was fined $12,500 for three, and Air Transat and Porter Airlines were each fined $7,500 for three violations apiece.

The new regulations hold airlines to a higher standard of treatment for passengers during tarmac delays, including requiring them to allow passengers to deplane if they have spent three hours waiting to take off and a take-off is not imminent. Airlines are also now required to have clear policies explaining how they handle luggage containing musical instruments.

The Canadian Transportation Agency has not taken any other disciplinary action against airlines since the new regulations came into effect.

Another round of passenger rights protections will take effect in December. At that point, airlines will be required to compensate passengers for any delays or cancellations within the airline’s control, as well as rebook or refund passengers whose flights are delayed – even if that means they have to buy them a ticket for a competing airline.

Air passenger advocates have argued that this will do little to help passengers. They note that a broad array of issues ranging from airport problems to medical emergencies to weather conditions can be cited for delays without the compensation requirement being triggered.

A spokesperson for Porter Airlines told that the company corrected the “minor communication issues” as soon as they were notified of the fines.

“Porter has dedicated significant resources to implementing the regulations on very short notice and we are making every effort to comply with the rules,” the spokesperson said.

A group of 17 airlines, including Air Canada and Porter, has filed a legal challenge against the regulations, arguing that the Canadian Transportation Authority does not have the power to implement them. The Federal Court of Appeal has agreed to hear the appeal.