Air Transat cancels most winter flights out of Western Canada due to COVID-19 pandemic

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Air Transat says it is cancelling all flights from Western Canada to sunshine destinations or the United States this winter, with refunds en route to customers.

Tour operator Transat, which owns Air Transat, says in an online notice it is scrubbing routes that were slated to take off from Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver and Victoria.

The only routes out of western gateways between Nov. 1 and April 30 will be from Vancouver to Toronto and Montreal, as well as some connecting flights to Europe via Toronto.

Transat, whose first commercial flight in four months took off last week, says customers will receive a full refund rather than the company credit that has previously been offered for flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Read more: Air Transat signs deal to use jet fuel made from captured carbon dioxide

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The Montreal-based company cites “the many challenges” facing the airline industry, which centre around a pandemic that shut down borders and grounded fleets before traffic slowly starting to pick up in the summer, though not enough to revive the critical crossborder tourism or business travel markets.

Transat told The Canadian Press last week it will delay the closing deadline of its takeover by Air Canada, pushing it back by one month until Aug. 27 as European regulators and federal cabinet members mull how the $720-million acquisition will affect competition.

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On Tuesday, the International Air Transport Association said air travel is recovering more slowly than expected and it will take until 2024 to return to pre-coronavirus pandemic levels — one year later than it initially predicted due to the slow containment of the outbreak in the U.S. and in developing countries.

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Besides renewed outbreaks, travel is also being held back by weak consumer confidence and constrained travel budgets at companies that are struggling.

Read more: Air travel not expected to recover to pre-pandemic levels until 2024

— With files from David McHugh, The Associated Press

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