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Following a meeting between senior Air Canada representatives and other key participants in the Canadian aviation industry with Canada's Federal Transport Minister, the airline has issued a statement describing its efforts to ramp up as travel demand surges.
"At Air Canada, we know every trip is important, even more so today as many are flying for the first time in years to see loved ones or take an eagerly anticipated holiday. We are determined not to disappoint and have been long preparing for a travel surge this summer, including coordinating with our industry partners," said Michael Rousseau, President and Chief Executive Officer.
"As all businesses worldwide are finding, restarting after COVID is an extremely complex task and we deeply appreciate our customers' understanding and patience during these often-frustrating times. I also thank our dedicated employees who are working hard to serve our customers and transport them safely," Rousseau added.
The airline says it has been "prudently" restoring its schedule as it recovers from the effects of COVID-19 and plans to operate below its pre-pandemic capacity this summer as the industry stabilizes.
AC says it has recalled employees laid off during the pandemic and continues to hire new ones. It currently has 32,000 employees, versus approximately 33,000 prior to the pandemic while operating approximately 80% of its June 2019 schedule.
Air Canada says it has taken a series of steps to assist customers, including:
-- New self-service re-accommodation tools will allow customers who have schedule changes, delays, or cancellations to request a refund if eligible or rebook their itineraries in a few minutes through the AC mobile app or website. This includes getting up to 20 alternative flight options (based on availability), choosing to fly to nearby airports instead, and the ability to search for flights in a three-day window. It will be available for customers regardless of how and where they booked their tickets.
-- A goodwill policy has been implemented for passengers travelling via Toronto-Pearson to allow them to voluntarily increase their connection time at no cost for more flexibility when travelling. This policy can be applied within 48 hours of the original travel time.
-- Another new policy will allow customers free, same-day stand-by options for earlier flights within Canada/Transborder regardless of fare brand or booking class.
-- The airline maintains an updated travel readiness page on aircanada.com with the latest information and advice for those preparing to travel, including information about COVID-19 requirements. Customers are advised to consult this page before travelling.
To help alleviate airport problems due to the surge in demand, AC says it has:
-- Recalled virtually all available employees and hired more than 2,000 front-line airport employees (and 774 more people to work in call centres) over the last six months. It is offering additional overtime and is even drawing upon recently retired employees with special expertise.
-- Employees have been reassigned from other bases to augment specific airports, including the cross-utilization of cargo employees to assist with airport passenger operations.
-- Redeployed aircraft from its Jetz charter fleet to move delayed baggage, which it says has increased in large part due to air transport processing and infrastructure issues outside its control.
-- The airline is working closely with airport authorities, government and third-party agencies to enhance and expedite the processing of customers throughout their journey.
In another initiative designed to smooth the process, Air Canada says minimum connection times for flights from international and transborder destinations connecting to domestic destinations have been increased by 30 minutes for new bookings in Toronto and Montreal, giving customers (and their baggage) additional time to connect.
The schedule has been refined to reduce peak times at the Toronto-Pearson and Montreal-Trudeau airports by retiming and cancelling certain flights or reducing frequencies, where protection is available to customers the same day. AC says this will conserve resources and reduce stress on third-party service providers by smoothing passenger flows.
Aircraft gating at airports has been reconfigured. For example, widebody aircraft in Montreal travelling internationally and to the U.S. are being more conveniently located to achieve efficiencies during peak hours for added operational flexibility.
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