In addition to these incredible deals, vacationers can book with peace of mind by taking advantage of Sunwing’s new flexible booking options which allow them to change or cancel their plans anytime with ease, enjoy flexible payment options and receive up to $800 per couple with complimentary Price Drop Cash Back. For added confidence, travellers can add on a Worry Free Cancellation Waiver for as low as $49 per person.
To ensure that guests can focus on enjoying their All-In Luxury˚ getaway without worrying about safety, Sunwing has introduced its new Safe with Sunwing commitment to ensure the health and safety of its customers throughout their entire vacation experience. In addition, the Safety-Assured Vacations initiative from Royalton Luxury Resorts includes a 360˚ Clean Approach with advanced sanitation measures, Diamond Clean guestrooms, advanced dining safety with reduced restaurant capacity, adherence to physical distancing guidelines and the implementation of a Safety-Assurance Team at each resort.
Vacationers who can’t wait to trade in views of their backyard for picturesque ocean vistas will love staying at the lavish Royalton Negril Resort and Spa. This top-rated luxury resort offers something for everyone in the family, from the action-packed kids club to the sprawling oceanview pool. Those planning an adults only getaway can stay at Hideaway at Royalton Negril, a resort-within-a-resort featuring an exclusive restaurant and a private beach area.
Canadians excited to return to the shores of Riviera Maya can stay at one of the area’s most popular luxury resorts, Royalton Riviera Cancun Resort and Spa. The resort offers numerous gourmet cuisine options for those who miss eating out and sparkling pools where guests can enjoy some much-needed rest and relaxation. For an adults only option, vacationers can choose to stay at Hideaway at Royalton Riviera Cancun next door.
TORONTO, June 25, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Canadians who have been dreaming about a tropical getaway with white-sand beaches and sunny skies can get the deal they’ve been waiting for on a fall or winter vacation with Sunwing’s See You at RIU Sale. For a limited time, the tour operator is offering deals with savings of up to 35% on vacation packages to RIU Hotels & Resorts and RIU Palace Resorts for departures in November and December 2020. Sun-seekers can enjoy more freedom and flexibility than ever before including the ability to change or cancel their plans with ease, flexible payment options and complimentary Price Drop Cash Back of up to $800 per couple.
Vacationers who book with Sunwing can enjoy peace of mind with the Safe with Sunwing commitment which ensures the health and safety of customers throughout their entire vacation journey, from the moment they check-in at the airport to their airport transfers, throughout their resort stay and their journey home. RIU Hotels & Resorts has also implemented new measures at all their properties including temperature checks for guests at check-in, reduced resort capacity to abide by social distancing guidelines and enhanced cleaning protocols.
Families won’t have to worry about keeping the kids entertained at Riu Dunamar in Playa Mujeres. This top-rated family resort offers plenty of opportunities for fun in the sun, from unlimited access to the on-site ‘Splash Water World’ water park to an all-day entertainment program.
Canadians who are tired of being cooped up at home can trade in their living room for an oceanview pool at Riu Bambu. Nestled on the pristine shores of Arena Gorda Beach in Punta Cana, guests can grab a drink from the swim-up bar before soaking up the sun on a poolside lounger.
Riu Ocho Rios in Jamaica is another popular choice for sun-seekers in need of a well-deserved getaway. Vacationers can spend their days at the water park before indulging in a range of cuisine options at on-site restaurants, including the new beachside Jerk Chicken Station.
Saint John Airport officials are worried passengers from outside New Brunswick will be turned away by border patrols as Air Canada resumes flights from Montreal to the Port City.
One daily flight arrived at the Saint John Airport shortly before 3:30 p.m. and was to depart at 4:30 p.m. Border patrol officers with the province are questioning travellers arriving at the airport.
“Obviously, you have to have a legitimate reason … on why you’re coming into New Brunswick, and if those are met, than you should be OK to come in,” said Jacques Fournier, director of commercial development at the Saint John Airport.
“If they’re not, there’s always a chance they could get turned away.”
He said the plane is a 78-seat aircraft, which has been upgraded from the 50-seat commercial aircraft originally planned.
“Obviously, the demand is a little more than we thought.”
But Fournier said some seats won’t be used, so passengers can keep their distance from each other on the plane.
“I would have to say the aircraft will be pretty busy today.”
Flights at all three of New Brunswick’s largest airports have been reduced since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, and service in Saint John was suspended altogether.
Saint John Airport staff have also taken steps to make sure passengers can physically distance themselves from one another, including when they’re lining up to get on a plane.
People permitted to come into the province are still required to self-isolate for two weeks, with the exception of New Brunswick residents working who have been working outside the province.
Geoffrey Downey, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety, said there are two peace officers and two screeners at each airport during hours of operation.
“Some people still need to travel and want to travel,” said Fournier. “I believe we will still see people with cottages here in New Brunswick coming in.”
Additional flights to Toronto and Montreal from Saint John will start on July 1.
“It’s been a while since we’ve seen commercial traffic coming back into the Saint John Airport,” Fournier said. “So it is very exciting.”
More flights added to Moncton offerings
Toronto and Montreal flights that were previously suspended to and from the Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport, also resumed Monday. They include one daily flight to Toronto and Montreal until June 30.
In July, flights to each city will operate twice a day, but exceptions could apply, said Julie Pondant, a spokesperson for the airport.
Halifax and Ottawa flights are suspended until Sept. 7.
WestJet currently operates three days a week to Toronto from the Moncton airport.
Swoop Airlines has postponed service to the Moncton airport.
The Fredericton International Airport has two daily Air Canada flights to Montreal and three WestJet flights per week to Toronto.
“The airport has been open continuously, with both Air Canada and WestJet continuing to serve YFC, although on a reduced schedule,” said Kate O’Rourke, a spokesperson for the Fredericton International Airport.
Porter and Sunwing have both suspended operations until the end of July at New Brunswick airports.
TORONTO — Canada’s airlines have taken swift action amid border closures and travel restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases airlines have temporarily suspended operations entirely.
Here’s the latest from Canada’s airlines. Updates will be added as soon as they become available.
LATEST UPDATE: June 16 – WestJet; June 12 – Transat; June 11 – Sunwing; June 9 – WestJet; June 4 – Flair Airlines; May 27 – Porter Airlines; May 20 – Sunwing; May 11 – Air Canada
UPDATED MAY 11: Air Canada has extended its route suspensions until at least May 31 and into early June for a large swath of its network, with some exceptions. On May 8 ACV notified the trade that Air Canada’s operating schedule for June, while certainly reduced, includes service to Cancun, Varadero, Cayo Coco, Montego Bay, Barbados, Paris, Athens and Barcelona. Updated information about route suspensions for flights within North America as well as Atlantic, Pacific, South America and Mexico/Caribbean routes can be found here.
UPDATED JUNE 4: Flair Airlines has announced that it will resume service to Kelowna and Winnipeg while delaying the launch of other destinations as part of its new summer schedule. Its current route schedule will be expanded to include both Kelowna and Winnipeg in addition to Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. However, as a result of ongoing travel restrictions, Flair will also be delaying the launch of service into Ottawa and Atlantic Canada. Full refunds are being offered to passengers booked on cancelled flights to the affected destinations: Ottawa, Halifax, Saint John, N.B., and Charlottetown. Impacted guests will be contacted through email with instructions on how to receive their refunds. The airline’s latest change policies are at https://flyflair.com/travel-info/customer-service/covid-19-updates.
UPDATED JUNE 11: Sunwing has suspended all southbound flights through July 31. Passengers with departures dates for flights or vacation packages March 17 – July 31 are eligible to receive a future travel credit for the value of the original amount paid. The credit can be redeemed against future travel to anywhere Sunwing Airlines operates for up to two years from the original departure date For departure dates Aug. 1, 2020 onwards standard terms and conditions apply to changes and cancellations. For the most up to date information see https://www.sunwing.ca/en/promotion/packages/travel-advisory/.
Swoop has suspended all regular international and transborder flights until May 31. Check https://www.flyswoop.com/coronavirus/ for the latest updates. Swoop’s ModiFly is included in all new bookings more than seven days from departure and free to add for existing bookings more than seven days from departure. Swoop’s repatriation flights started March 23.
UPDATED JUNE 12: Transat is set to resume both its flights and tour activities starting July 23. Its new flight schedule, running through Oct. 31, will include 22 destinations in Europe, the South, the U.S. and Canada. South and Europe packages will be available, with Transat’s network of travel agencies gradually reopening starting June 15. More information for Transat can be found at https://www.airtransat.com/en-CA/book/resumption-of-our-operations#%2Fresults.
UPDATED JUNE 16: From July 5 through August 4, WestJet will offer operations to 45 destinations including 39 in Canada, five in the U.S. and one in Mexico. On June 1 WestJet announced it was offering refunds for select flights that include a U.S. or UK destination. The policy does not include flights within Canada or to continental Europe, Mexico or the Caribbean. If clients chose to voluntarily cancel their booking, they are not eligible for a refund to original form of payment, with some exceptions. The refunds apply to U.S. and UK flights March 1 – June 30.
Council already voted once against financing Winnipeg company’s involvement
CBC News · Posted: Jun 15, 2020
Stephenville’s town council voted Monday to spend $223,000 to hire a private company to try to bring its beleaguered airport back from the brink.
The vote was on a proposed management contract between Stephenville’s airport authority and Winnipeg Airport Services Corporation, a company that provides an array of aviation services to Canadian airports from Kamloops to Iqaluit. Its CEO reached out to Stephenville council in November, said the town’s mayor, with meetings and discussions culminating in the proposed plan.
The funding matter came up at its last public meeting June 4, and was defeated by a 4-3 vote. Following several subsequent private meetings, on Monday the nays recanted and the motion passed unanimously.
“Having unanimous support shows that we as a council are working together. We’re going to move this file forward,” said Mayor Tom Rose at the meeting which took place via a live-streamed video conference.
During the meeting, Rose said most of the $223,000 will be repaid by the provincial government, with Stephenville taxpayers on the hook for about $13,500.
Coun. Mark Felix, a former council finance chair who has been a critic of the town’s financial support of the airport in the past, was one of the people who changed his mind to support Monday’s vote, given the money was now largely going to be repaid.
“I’m a supporter of the airport, but not at all costs,” he said.
“As we reach sustainability in maybe three years from now, the airport might be putting money back into the town council, and that’s my goal,” Rose said, in an earlier interview with the CBC Newfoundland Morning Show.
Sustainability is a far cry from the current financial situation of the airport, which has been steadily losing traffic.
Several councillors on Monday spoke of efforts underway to attract a new airline, hinting that a company is interested in providing regular service to Halifax, Sydney and St. John’s, and that further fundraising efforts would be required to make that a reality.
“I’m sure we’ll be bringing more information on that to the weeks that come,” said Depurty Mayor Susan Fowlow.
“This is the first step, which is to get this company in and get things moving.”
Rose said he has spoken to the provincial government and it has promised to chip in a portion of the needed funds.
“They’re supporting this deal because they feel that Winnipeg is the right equation, the right business modelling, the right company, to finally get Stephenville back on track,” Rose said.
Rose said WASCO’s aviation expertise gives him confidence.
“They have the track record. They have the expertise and competencies, they’re subject matter experts in the field, and I’m really excited,” he said.
While official direction for the future rests with the Stephenville Airport Corporation, a non-profit airport authority run by a board of directors, Stephenville’s council has contributed to the airport financially for years.
Sunwing introduces new health and safety measures to give travellers peace of mind.
TORONTO, June 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sunwing is introducing new measures to give travellers peace of mind when heading on vacation in a post-pandemic world. The Safe with Sunwing commitment ensures the health and safety of customers across their entire vacation experience, from the moment they check in, to their airport transfers, throughout their resort stay and their journey home.
“As a Canadian family-owned and operated business and the largest integrated travel company in North America, Sunwing is committed to adding increased health and safety measures throughout the entire vacation experience,” said Stephen Hunter, CEO of Sunwing. “We are the only travel company that owns the airline you fly on, the transfer buses that transport you to and from your hotel and own and operate over 30 hotels throughout the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico. With that expansive ownership we can ensure all the proper safety measures are in place for a safe and reliable vacation. Plus, since we offer the most direct flights from the most regional gateways across Canada, we’re with you from takeoff to touchdown.”
For the airline, there have been numerous measures added to ensure customer health and safety both at the airport and on board the aircraft. New measures at the airport include self-service check-in where possible and social distancing measures. In addition, Sunwing has increased cleaning and disinfecting protocols for aircraft and eliminated most printed materials on board. All this is in addition to the HEPA filters that are installed in every aircraft and the mandatory use of non-medical face masks for all passengers* and employees.
Travellers can look forward to a stress-free transfer from the airport to their hotel with updated health and safety procedures from Sunwing Experiences. To ensure the well-being of customers, Sunwing Experiences has updated sanitation procedures to the highest safety standards, reduced the volume of customers in transfer vehicles and increased vehicle disinfection frequency.
Sunwing owned hotels and resorts in destination have also introduced enhanced protocols to ensure the well-being of their guests. New protocols include advanced sanitation measures, social distancing guidelines, reduced occupancy and adherence to recommendations set in place by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, Royalton Luxury Resorts has implemented a 360˚ Clean Approach where common areas are cleaned hourly in addition to introducing new staff training, reducing restaurant capacity and more.
Sunwing Experiences representatives are available to help customers throughout their time in destination, and numerous measures have been taken to ensure the safety of both representatives and guests. Welcome briefings will now be offered virtually and information will be distributed digitally where possible. In-person interactions between destination representatives and customers will also be reduced to adhere to social distancing protocols; however, vacationers who have any questions or concerns can contact their Sunwing Experiences representative 24/7 who can assist with any issues that may arise.
The federal government’s advisory against all non-essential international travel remains in effect. Many other countries, even those where COVID-19 case counts have been steadily declining for weeks, also have strict travel restrictions in place.
But you wouldn’t know that by looking at airline websites.
If you’re contemplating rebooking an existing flight that was cancelled amid the pandemic or making a new reservation for a future date, here’s what some of the major Canadian airlines are offering:
After facing public criticism for offering a 24-month travel credit rather than refunds for cancelled flights, Canada’s flagship carrier recently introduced expanded booking options. Through June 30, passengers can make a one-time change with no fee to all new or existing bookings for original travel dates between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. As of June 15, those who booked directly with Air Canada will also be able to convert their ticket to a “fully transferrable” travel voucher that has no expiry date or turn it into Aeroplan Miles with 65 per cent bonus miles.
Air Canada says it’s working on ensuring two new options are also available to those who booked through a travel agency, including Expedia.
Customers with refundable tickets can also choose to get their money back. However, if you purchased a non-refundable ticket and decide to cancel your flight, you won’t be eligible for a refund, the website warns.
WestJet has suspended its international routes through June 25. Like Air Canada, WestJet has been offering travel credit valid for two years for cancelled flights and vacation packages.
For new flight bookings made between March 3 and June 30, you can change or cancel your trip with no fee one time if you act more than 24 hours ahead of departure.
For U.S. flights, if you cancel within 24 hours of making a booking, you get a full refund, according to the company website.
Air Transat flights are temporarily suspended until June 30. The airline says on its website it has been automatically granting travel credit valid for 24 months to customers whose flights were cancelled.
For flights and vacations in southern destinations booked between April 30 and May 31, customers get to reschedule the same trip for any time within a year of the original return date or book a new trip — with different dates, destination and hotel — at no charge up to 24 hours before departure.
Those who just want to cancel get a 12-month travel credit for southern vacation packages and flights in the lowest fare class. For those who bought tickets in other fare classes, the standard cancellation terms apply, according to the airline’s website.
Sunwing has suspended all southbound flights until June 25. Those with flights or vacation packages starting between March 17 and June 25 are eligible for travel credit valid for departures up to June 20, 2022. Notably, the company says its travel credits are non-transferable and non-refundable.
WestJet’s ultra-low-cost carrier has suspended all international flights until Aug. 31.
All new bookings made at least seven days ahead of departure will come with the ability to change the date or time of the flight up to 24 hours in advance. If you have an existing booking, you can add the flexible-booking feature to your reservation for travel that is at least seven days out.
Customers get a one-time change per direction.
Another no-frills Canadian airline, Flair, also says it has relaxed its booking policies. For those with existing reservations for flights in March, April and May, passengers can choose between a one-time chance to rebook their trip without having to pay a change fee and a travel voucher valid until May 31, 2021. You can only use one voucher per reservation, and it won’t cover costs like baggage, seat selection and other optional fees.
For new bookings made in March, April and May, you get the fee waived on a one-time rebooking for travel until May 31, 2021.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Air passenger rights advocate warns against flexible bookings
Flexible bookings, travel credit and vouchers are hardly unique to Canadian airlines. Customers perusing U.S. or other international carriers will be hard-pressed to find any mention of the possibility of refunds, especially for non-refundable flights.
But air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs argues that any alternative to getting your money back comes with considerable financial risk.
For one, consumers should watch out for fare increases. Often, he notes, airlines are merely waiving rebooking fees, with passengers left to cover any cost differential between their original and new bookings out of pocket.
“You will not get a flight to New York City in September for the price you paid in February,” he said via email.
Lukacs takes issue with the practice, noting that current rules under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations stipulate carriers must rebook passengers at no charge if their flight is cancelled.
Another important caveat: most airlines allow only a one-time change to your reservations. (There are exceptions: Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, for example, is currently allowing unlimited rebookings for some customers within certain dates.)
Also, it’s not clear what happens to travel vouchers if an airline files for insolvency.
“Vouchers holders are unsecured creditors,” Lukacs warns.
Finally, airlines are leaving it up to consumers to figure out whether they can travel. Just because you were able to book a flight to, say, Rome doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed to take the trip.
Traditionally, it’s passengers’ responsibility to make sure they have any permits or visas required to travel to their destination — and travel during COVID-19 is no different, Lukacs notes.
Ultimately, customers should get refunds, he says, adding that even consumers with a non-refundable ticket are entitled to their money back if their flight was cancelled.
European Union and U.S. authorities have said travellers have a right to refunds amid the pandemic. In Germany, the government recently announced a €9-billion (C$13.6-billion) rescue deal for national carrier Lufthansa after the European Commission reasserted in mid-May EU airlines’ obligation to provide refunds to eligible travellers who ask for them.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Consumer rights advocates say Canadians are also entitled by law to a full refund for flights cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Ottawa recognizes both “how vulnerable the airline sector is” and that Canadians are concerned about being “out-of-pocket” for airplane tickets they won’t use.
“I think we need to have some very careful discussions with airlines, with the air travel sector and, indeed, with Canadians … to try and figure out a way forward where we can ensure that Canadians are treated fairly and our airline industry remains there for when our economy picks up again,” the prime minister recently said.
“We will work with airlines and with Canadians who are concerned with finding solutions.”
Stephenville’s struggling airport has been dealt another blow, as two more airlines have cancelled their summer flights to the western Newfoundland destination.
Sunwing Airlines announced last week that when its summer flights between Toronto and Newfoundland begin June 26, they won’t be flying to Stephenville.
On Tuesday, Porter Airlines announced its planes would stay on the ground until July 29 due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, and cancelled its summer flights to Stephenville entirely.
Mayor Tom Rose said he was expecting that Porter might not fly to Stephenville this summer, but he was surprised Sunwing chose to fly to Deer Lake.
“I think Sunwing probably looked at their travel capacity and the numbers that were going to Deer Lake and Stephenville and probably made a business decision,” he said.
“[That’s] unfortunate, because they’ve been here for about a decade now.”
The announcements from Porter and Sunwing come just months after PAL Airlines flew its last flight from Stephenville in January, leaving the airport without a year-round commercial air service.
With Porter and Sunwing gone, Rose said, the airport will lose about 60 seasonal flights a year.
He said the town has been working with the Stephenville Airport Corporation to try to attract travellers in the region back to Stephenville and to encourage more airlines to offer flights from the airport.
The mayor said he also expects positive announcements in the next month or two that will make Stephenville “a more robust, busier airport for domestic travel.”
“Our airport’s been hurting for years, we’ve been putting a fair bit of municipal funds into the airport to keep it going, but it hasn’t been sustainable,” he said.
“[But] I’m pretty excited for 2021.”
‘Big opportunities’ for Stephenville
Rose said as travel restrictions due to the pandemic begin to lift, Stephenville could take advantage of increases in travel within Canada.
“People, I believe, are going to be a little hesitant to fly international, but they’ll feel a little bit more assurance and easiness about flying domestically.… There’s big opportunities for us,” he said.
In the meantime, Rose said, other sources of revenue, like air ambulance and military operations, can help keep the airport going, and the town will be providing more funding to the airport as part of a restructuring plan, in addition to a $100,000 grant given to the airport in March.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, the Stephenville Airport Corporation said it was disappointed by Porter’s decision to cancel its flights to the airport, but understands the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have a very short season and considering the provincial travel restrictions in place for Newfoundland and Labrador at this time, it would be very challenging for leisure air service to resume and be profitable,” the statement reads.
“We continually work with air carriers to encourage them to consider Stephenville Airport as a leisure market, as we have established that there is a high propensity for visiting friends and relatives in the core summer season and holidays.”
By James Jackson, Record Reporter | Sat., May 16, 2020
BRESLAU — Take a drive south along Fountain Street North near the town of Breslau and you’ll eventually pass the Region of Waterloo International Airport. There you’ll see signs of how the global pandemic has hit the airline industry.
About 250 private planes are securely tied to their moors, and the nearly 30 planes that make up the local flight school remain grounded. To top it off, more than half a dozen blue, white and orange Sunwing Boeing 737-800 jets are parked on the runway and tell the real story of an imperiled industry.
As of early April, the International Air Transport Association — which represents about 290 airlines and 82 per cent of global air traffic — said the number of flights globally was down 80 per cent compared to 2019, largely due to strict travel restrictions imposed by countries trying to slow the spread of the virus.
Some in the industry have called it the worst crisis in the history of aviation. Worse than the financial crisis of 2008. Worse than the SARS outbreak in 2003. Worse than the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Aside from two WestJet flights per week to Calgary on Thursdays and Sundays and the occasional private flight, the once-bustling regional airport feels like a ghost town.
Region of Waterloo International Airport general manager Chris Wood said before the pandemic hit the airport could see 1,000 plane movements (takeoffs or landings) on a nice day, but lately they’ve been lucky if they hit 100.
“It’s been devastating for the industry worldwide,” said Wood. “We haven’t seen anything like this, and it happened so quickly.”
Up in the air
No one really knows how this pandemic will play out or how the industry will weather the uncertainty.
“If you have a crystal ball, can I borrow it?” joked Wood.
Air Canada recently reported a $1-billion loss in the first quarter of 2020 compared to a $345-million profit in the same period last year, and chief executive Calin Rovinescu called it the “darkest period ever” in the history of aviation.
The company is burning through $22 million every day paying rent, interest and other expenses. The company had about $6.5-billion in cash at the end of March, enough Rovinescu said for the company to emerge on the other side of the crisis.
Long-term forecasting is fraught with uncertainty and there are a lot of variables to consider. Perhaps none are bigger than trying to predict the human response to this pandemic.
Tens of millions of people around the world have spent weeks and months in strict lockdowns that have shuttered most non-essential businesses. But the highly infectious virus is still lurking, and there is no vaccine.
Just how many people are ready and eager to jump on a plane under those conditions is anyone’s guess.
“Many people won’t want to travel until they feel confident they can travel safely in a confined space,” said William Morrison, an associate professor in business and economics at Wilfrid Laurier University and co-editor of the Journal of Air Transport Management. He is also a research fellow at the Centre for Transportation Studies at the University of British Columbia.
Morrison predicts demand for air travel will remain muted until either a vaccine is available, or testing and monitoring is more widespread. This is especially true for the leisure or vacation market where spending is more discretionary and price sensitive.
“Ultimately it’s a matter of confidence — the public has to feel confident that they’re not at risk,” he said.
Business travel may rebound more quickly, but even the fate of in-person business meetings could be up in the air after employees have spent the past few months proving to themselves and others that much of what they do can be done with a computer screen and a reliable internet connection.
“It’s likely that many aspects of business travel may not rebound,” Morrison said.
Another major factor in how quickly people get back in the air is price.
Could airlines be required to leave a certain proportion of every flight empty to help promote social distancing aboard their jets? Some carriers have already begun leaving middle seats empty, but the European Union has recently stated it will not be a requirement.
Airlines use what is called the “Break Even Load Factor” to determine how many seats on every flight an airline needs to sell in order to break even or make a profit. A number of factors, including ticket price and fuel costs, can affect that percentage.
Morrison said one major Canadian carrier breaks even when about 75 per cent of the 737-800 jets it flies are full, and prior to the pandemic it usually sold about 85 per cent of seats.
But if they were to lose a third or half of their seats to help keep passengers apart in the air, ticket prices or baggage fees would likely have to go up.
Maybe this is an opportunity for the industry to reflect on its huge growth in recent decades, Morrison conceded, and address some of the growing concerns around international air travel — namely, its impact on the environment.
He pulled up a graph showing the steady rise in worldwide passengers between 1970 (less than half a billion) to 2019 (just over four billion). He highlighted economic shocks that have impacted the industry in the past — the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, the Gulf War a decade later, the Sept. 11 terror attacks and the 2008 global financial crisis.
Each was a shock to the system at the time, but when viewed over five decades those jolts appear more as small patches of turbulence followed by years of relatively smooth (and increasingly rapid) growth.
Is the pandemic just another blip on an otherwise smooth trajectory? Or will it become something more?
Suzanne Kearns, an associate professor of geography and aviation at the University of Waterloo, is optimistic the industry will eventually recover from the COVID-19 pandemic as it has from other shocks, but what that recovery will look like is less clear.
One possibility is a V-shaped recovery where travellers who have spent months in social isolation and are desperate to travel again flock back into airports and generate a quick recovery.
GET THE LATEST IN YOUR INBOX
The other is a U-shaped recovery where travellers — whose spending may be hampered by higher prices and a possible global recession, and who also remain worried about the virus re-emerging — are slower to return to the skies.
The airline industry is a vital economic driver, she added, and each of the 2.7 million jobs in the industry around the world supports 24 more jobs in other areas of the economy.
Like Morrison, however, Kearns said a lot relies on how safe travellers feel inside airport terminals and aboard planes.
“How do you make these spaces safe? I don’t know if masks or gloves alone are enough,” she said.
The role of Waterloo Region’s airport
All of this uncertainty raises questions about how Waterloo Region’s airport will be impacted.
Three years ago, the regional government released a master plan that laid out possible expansion plans for the facility.
It projected Pearson International Airport would reach its maximum capacity of 70 million annual passengers by the mid-2030s and smaller, regional airports like Waterloo’s would be key in absorbing the overflow.
The $375-million expansion and modernization plan was written to guide the next two decades of growth at the local airport, including runway expansions. The first phase of the expansion wouldn’t be triggered until the airport saw 250,000 passengers per year, or about four 737 passenger jets every day.
In 2018, only about 80,000 passengers went through the airport.
Regional councillor Sean Strickland said with the global uncertainty around the future of air travel it might be wise to review that plan.
“I think the numbers still make sense, but the time frame I think needs to be extended,” said Strickland.
He noted how even prior to the pandemic the local airport was struggling to attract business and relied on about $6 million from the region each year. Over the past decade, the region has also lost service from carriers such as American Airlines, Bearskin Airlines and Arctic charter Nolinor.
Strickland said the region should consider selling or leasing the property to the private sector, a position he held even before the pandemic hit.
That all hinges on the results of an ongoing service review at the region, he added.
Tony LaMantia, president and CEO of the Waterloo Region Economic Development Corporation, said the airport is critical for the success of the region. In 2015, the economic impact of the airport on the regional economy was an estimated $90 million.
“If you believe in growth for the region, you have to believe in YKF,” he said, referring to the airport’s location indicator code. “Waterloo Region will not be as vibrant or successful without the airport infrastructure.”
Yet even LaMantia noted it might be time to re-examine the master plan to ensure it makes sense post-pandemic.
“You’ll have to dust off the master plan and look at the impact,” he said.
Woods said Toronto’s Pearson airport saw 50 million passengers last year but that could plummet by as much as 30 million this year.
“I don’t think we’ll get back to ‘normal’ until the vast majority of us are immune,” he said. “How long that takes, well your guess is as good as mine.”
Author of the article: Emily Jackson • 14 May 2020
As Canada’s largest airlines cut capacity and cancel dozens of routes even as summer travel season approaches, airlines and travellers on both sides of the Atlantic are continuing the debate over whether passengers with travel plans foiled by COVID-19 are entitled to full refunds or vouchers for future travel.
On Wednesday, the European Commission confirmed passengers have the right to full refunds within seven days despite pressure from 16 member states to temporarily relax the regulations to allow for vouchers so cash-strapped airlines don’t collapse.
Instead of amending the rules, the European Commission issued a non-binding suggestion that airlines offer more attractive vouchers, refundable after one year and transferable to another traveller.
The decision outraged European airline associations, who have decried the commission’s decision given airlines have no cash coming in yet and are facing up to €9.2 billion in cash reimbursements through the end of May, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The IATA noted the refund rules were not designed to deal with mass cancellations caused by a global pandemic — and emphasized that Canada allows the voucher approach.
“While passengers have a clear right to reimbursement of their tickets, we believe refundable vouchers, or a delayed reimbursement, represents a fair and reasonable compromise given the unprecedented liquidity situation airlines are currently facing,” Airlines for Europe managing director Thomas Reynaert said in a statement.
The United States also requires airlines to provide refunds when the carrier cancels or significantly changes a passenger’s flight, but customer complaints about refunds have soared since the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it received 25,000 complaints in March and April, up from a typical 1,500 complaints per month. The department issued its second enforcement notice on the matter since travel restrictions began, reminding airlines that they may offer vouchers as long as they also give customers the option of a refund.
“The department is asking all airlines to revisit their customer service policies and ensure they are as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship during this time,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a statement.
The issue is particularly charged in the U.S. given the federal government’s US$50-billion bailout for major airlines.
Meanwhile in Canada, full refunds are but a wish for customers who booked standard tickets since cancelled. Instead, most Canadian airlines are offering 24-month travel vouchers.
Canada’s air passenger protection regulations require airlines to ensure customers can complete their trips when flights are cancelled for reasons outside the airlines’ control, but they do not mandate refunds in such circumstances.
In late April, the Canadian Transportation Agency said the vouchers could be a “reasonable approach in the extraordinary circumstances.”
“Vouchers for future travel can help protect passengers from losing the full value of their flights, and improve the odds that over the longer term, consumer choice and diverse service offerings — including from small and medium-sized airlines — will remain in Canada’s air transportation sector,” it stated.
Passengers can file complaints with the CTA if they believe they are entitled to a refund, although the agency has paused all dispute resolution activities until June 30. It did not respond to questions on Wednesday on how many complaints have been filed.
The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Air Canada, WestJet, Jazz and Transat, supports the CTA’s guidance that vouchers are acceptable given the financial and operational crisis the pandemic caused.
“The industry is reeling from the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 90 per cent of capacity pulled from the market, billions of dollars worth of aircraft parked, and virtually no revenue coming in,” NACC president Mike McNaney said in an email.
But some passengers hope to band together to get their money back in court. In April, a plaintiff filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Air Canada, WestJet, Transat, Swoop and Sunwing. It argues customers are entitled to refunds under contract law for frustrated contracts. The defendants have yet to file a statement of defence and the action has not yet been certified.
For its part, WestJet, which on Sunday announced it would suspend three dozen routes between June and July, said it “values the feedback we are receiving from our guests and appreciates how difficult this unprecedented situation is for all.”
The airline is monitoring the legal frameworks in every jurisdiction it operates, a spokesperson said in an email, adding it has waived rebooking fees and extended vouchers to 24 months.
Air Canada is offering refunds to customers who bought refundable tickets and offering 24-month vouchers to the rest.