Air Canada is cutting an additional 1,500 jobs and suspending more international flights while the airline grapples with heavy travel restrictions imposed to help quell the spread of new coronavirus variants.
Effective Feb. 18, the airline told Global News that 17 flight routes to the U.S. and overseas will be temporarily suspended until at least April 30.
“Affected customers with bookings will be contacted with options, including alternate routings,” Air Canada said.
Impacted routes across the U.S. include:
- Toronto to: Fort Myers (Feb. 14), Boston (Feb. 16), Washington-Reagan (Feb. 17), Denver (Feb. 17) and New York LaGuardia Airport (Feb. 17)
- Montreal to: Boston (Feb. 17), New York LaGuardia Airport (Feb. 17)
- Vancouver to: Seattle (Feb 16)
- Toronto to: Bogotá (Feb. 16), Dublin (Feb. 12), Dubai (start-up postponed), São Paulo (Feb. 16), Hong Kong (start-up postponed), Tel Aviv (continued suspension)
- Montreal to: Bogotá (Feb. 13)
- Vancouver to: London, England (Feb. 14), Tokyo-Narita, Japan (Feb. 15)
According to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, non-essential travel accounts for roughly 15 per cent of travellers who are coming back into Canada by plane, many of whom are snowbirds — Canadians who regularly travel to the U.S. and overseas for the winter.
Chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said the “simplest rule of thumb” is to restrict non-essential activities “as much as possible,” even if that means doling out hefty fines.
Her comments come in the midst of a federal government crackdown on non-essential travel that includes mandatory PCR testing, the requested suspension of all flights to sunny destinations from major airlines and designated quarantine hotels that are expected to cost more than $2,000 for travellers.
Wesley Lesosky, president of CUPE’s airline division, which represents flight attendants at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge, told The Canadian Press that more needed to be done if the country’s aviation industry was going to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We appreciate the need for measures to prevent the spread of new variants of COVID-19 in Canada,” he said. “But restrictions have to be accompanied by solutions.”
The new travel restrictions have already dealt a blow to the airliner’s vacation subsidiary, Air Canada Rouge, which announced 80 layoffs last week and officially paused its operations on Monday as a result of the government’s suspension of all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico.
On Tuesday, Trudeau announced he was expanding non-essential travel restrictions to include a mandatory negative PCR test for those entering Canada’s land borders taken within 72 hours of departure.
Trudeau said border officials can’t legally turn away Canadians at the land border — but they can issue a “stiff penalty” of up to $3,000 in fines for those who don’t show a negative test and ensure followups for those requiring additional COVID-19 testing and quarantines.
“You can’t prevent someone who is standing at a land border crossing from entering Canada because technically they’re already on Canadian soil when they’re speaking to that customs officer,” he said, adding that non-essential travel represents roughly five per cent of people driving through Canadian borders.
The new measure goes into effect on Feb. 15.
Internal federal government polling has consistently shown broad support for keeping tight restrictions on the Canada-U.S. border until conditions change with the spread of the virus.
The most recent internal government polling commissioned by the Privy Council Office, done in late November and obtained by Global News using access-to-information laws, found that 41 per cent of Canadians believed the border should remain shut to all non-essential travel until there is a vaccine, while 35 per cent thought it should open only when the number of new daily U.S. cases nears zero.
In June, a similar internal poll, also obtained using access-to-information laws, found that 40 per cent said the government should not reopen the Canada-U.S. border until U.S. cases approach zero while 25 per cent said the border should stay closed until a vaccine is available.
— With files from Global News’ David Akin and the Canadian Press