Spokespeople at Regina and Saskatoon international airports tell Global News they haven’t been notified that any regular flights will be impacted as a result of Air Canada’s Wednesday announcement about summer schedule reductions.
Montreal-based Air Canada announced Wednesday night plans to reduce flights by more than 15 per cent through July and August as the aviation industry as a whole struggles to keep up will resurging travel demand. According to Air Canada, an average of 154 flights per day (77 round trips) will be dropped from its schedule.
Regina International Airport president and CEO James Bogusz said, though, that this doesn’t mean Saskatchewan air travellers will emerge from the summer headache-free.
“YQR has not yet been notified by any of the major airlines of any significant cuts,” Bogusz told Global News Thursday morning.
“Although we would expect some impact, of course, as the airlines play catch-up and reduce the capacity of the major hubs. So, so far we haven’t been issued a new schedule.”
Bogusz said, though, that the impacts of Air Canada’s announcement are unfolding “in real time”.
“This does not necessarily mean that on the day of a flight that could have been scheduled, that it wasn’t cancelled or delayed due to these network issues,” he said.
“Today’s a good example of this. We had some cancellations that were scheduled arrivals or departures that have not occurred due to some of these challenges. If a plane is cancelled or delayed out of Toronto it has a cascade effect to cities like Regina.”
Bogusz said traffic at RIA, and the air travel industry as a whole, has experienced a “hockey stick-like” increase in demand over the past three months and that the industry is playing catch-up.
He said some days traffic is back to 80 to 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, and is consistently above 70 per cent pre-COVID-19, whereas as recently as February, traffic was around 30 per cent of normal levels.
“The more prominent issue we’ve been experiencing in Regina is bags not arriving with passengers,” he said, adding he’s heard of instances where baggage has been delayed as long as four days.
He said a “number of challenges” are contributing to the congestion, including staffing shortages.
“The federal government has been efforting to ramp up the hiring of agents both at Canada Border Services and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA),” he said.
“And there are so many agencies that contribute to your travel experience, from security to the airlines themselves. It’s quite a concert of individuals. Staffing issues there certainly have been a portion of the issue.”
He added that he thinks remaining government COVID-19 measures are also having an effect.
“We’ve been hearing that whether you’re vaccinated or unvaccinated there’s still some potential deterrents at the border,” he said, singling out the federal government’s ArriveCan app.
“We’ve heard of it being a struggle for some to use and causing some delays.”
The federal government announced Wednesday that it is extending current COVID-19 border measures for travellers entering Canada until at least Sept. 30, including the mandatory use of the ArriveCAN app.
As for travellers who are not fully vaccinated, they will continue to test on the first and eighth days of their mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos said the pandemic is not over and everyone must continue to make an effort to keep each other safe.
“As we have said all along, Canada’s border measures will remain flexible and adaptable, guided by science and prudence,” Duclos said.
Bogusz said he’s hoping for reconsideration.
“It’s these sorts of issues for people here, even if people are fully vaccinated and ready to travel, when they’re hearing they might miss their connections, or can’t get where they want on time, or they’ll experience massive delays in Toronto or Calgary, this deters people from wanting to take a trip in the first place,” Bogusz said.
Saskatoon International Airport business development and service quality vice-president CJ Dushinski commended the federal government’s recent decision to end the vaccine mandate for domestic and outbound travel, but agreed remaining restrictions are slowing down efficiency.
“We’re certainly not experiencing as much of it here as we have been fairly operationally consistent here in being able to move people through the process quite efficiently,” she said.
“But in the past, those restrictions certainly have created some compounding components to the already fragile ecosystem we operate in, for sure.”
As for what effect Air Canada’s announcement may have on the cost of flying, Dushinski said it’s hard to say, but that the drop in capacity combined with increasing demand and sky-high fuel prices won’t go unnoticed by travellers.
“All of that lends itself well to the fact we can expect pricing to continue to go up.”
Bogusz and Dushinski gave the following tips for taking as headache-free a trip as possible this summer:
- Take carry-on luggage only if possible.
- If checking baggage, carry on critical items like medication.
- Sign up for flight notifications through email or text message.
- Ensure you have online accounts with whatever airlines you’re flying with, and have their apps downloaded.
- Arrive early — Bogusz suggests at least 90 minutes ahead of a domestic flight out of YQR and three hours early if flying out of a larger hub like Toronto or Vancouver.
- Build flexibility into trip schedules.
“This will pass. This is a temporary, short-term issue. All of this will work out in the end. The question is how long it’ll take,” Bogusz said.