In June, Air Canada will add a fifth service on its Toronto to Vancouver operation as it tries to recover from the effects of coronavirus. An Airbus A220-300 will operate the route from June 17th. The extra flight has been announced just one week after social media images surfaced of the airline filling flights and not abiding by social distancing recommendations.
The flight details
In an attempt to encourage social distancing and ensure passenger safety, Air Canada will be introducing an extra flight on its popular Toronto to Vancouver service. An A319 will launch the additional service on June 16th, but after the first return flights, an A220-300 will take over the slot. Air Canada currently only has four A220 in its fleet. All four are recent additions and only entered service this year.
According to Routesonline, the flight, number AC111 and return flight AC122, leaves Toronto at 12:45 local time and will arrive in Vancouver at 14:48. It then leaves Vancouver at 16.45 to arrive back in Toronto at 00:18 the following morning. However, the schedule is still subject to change.
The other aircraft which will operate this route are an Airbus A330-300, a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, a 787-8 Dreamliner and an Airbus A321-200. An A220 previously worked the same route briefly in April of this year.
Overcrowding and social distancing measures
The move to add a fifth daily flight comes just one week after social media users called out Air Canada for not abiding by social distancing ideals. Images emerged online of passengers on a flight from Toronto to Vancouver. All passengers can be seen to be wearing masks, as per Air Canada’s regulations since April 20th, but social distancing was impossible. The Twitter user who shared the photos claimed that they were not told the flight would be full until boarding.
@AirCanada flight from Toronto to Vancouver May 1, absolutely full, no social distancing, whereas WestJet has seat distancing. Unbelievably irresponsible and quite terrifying for your passengers. Don’t know why you bothered enforcing social distancing before we boarded. pic.twitter.com/53j6F9eJgb
— kathleen (@sail60) May 4, 2020
In response to criticisms, Air Canada stated that it would attempt to reseat passengers to avoid contact. However, where this was not possible, passengers could request to travel on a later flight at no extra cost. The additional flight on the busy route may be a pre-emptive measure if Air Canada expects many people to request later flights.
Ongoing financial issues
Adding an extra flight might look like Air Canada is starting to recover. International travel restrictions mean the airline had to cut operations by up to 90%. The airline has already hinted that up to 20,000 jobs are on the line, and the Canadian government hasn’t confirmed any bailout terms as yet.
The extra flight between the two major cities is not enough. The airline introduced its new CleanCare+ initiative which it hopes will encourage people to travel again once restrictions are lifted. The CleanCare+ means that from May 15th, the airline is blocking adjacent seats so passengers can have more space. But if this practice is now happening, there’s a long time before the introduction of the fifth Toronto-Vancouver flight.
The new protective changes in the CleanCare+ plan are positive but costly. For an already struggling airline, operating half-full flights is difficult and dangerous. The introduction of new flights will allow Air Canada to transport more passengers daily but will not solve their financial problems. The additional flight doesn’t even indicate that demand is increasing and, therefore, a recovery period just around the corner. However, the new flight should mean that social distancing is possible. Hopefully, Air Canada won’t have a repeat of its packed flight until it is safe to do so.