Air Canada has joined the repatriation efforts of the Canadian government to get stranded Canadians back home from Northern Africa. The first Air Canada rescue mission flight was realized on Saturday, bringing 444 Canadians back home from Morocco on a Boeing 777-300ER.
Three flights out of Casablanca
The first repatriation flight from Casablanca under the livery of Air Canada took off for Montreal on Saturday evening. The 450 passenger capacity Boeing 777-300ER was filled to all but six seats. It landed in Montreal at 23.07 pm local time.
On Sunday, Air Canada announced that it will be operating an additional two flights this week to bring home stranded Canadians from the northern part of the African continent. The airline stated its intention to keep operating flights through the end of March “and beyond” for the purpose of providing Canadians a way home.
“We are working extremely hard 24/7 to bring thousands of Canadians home safely from around the world and we will continue to do so. Our priority at this time is to ensure that we can repatriate as many people as possible” said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive Officer at Air Canada.
Air Canada declared that all passengers would undergo a health screening before boarding the aircraft. Any passenger showing symptoms would be denied boarding. Only Canadian citizens, permanent residents and members of their immediate family would be allowed to travel on the planes.
Rescue missions exception to suspensions
The two additional flights are scheduled to take place today, Monday the 23rd, and Wednesday, the 25th of March. These will also be operated by a 777-300 aircraft. Air Canada owns 18 of the type, none of which are particularly busy these days as the airline has suspended most of its long-haul traffic.
The suspensions include all of its Pacific routes, apart from a few remaining flights until the end of March from Tokyo, Taipei, Seoul, Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. All transatlantic traffic will also be halted at the end of the week. The ones that remain until then are a few more flights out of Amsterdam, Brussels, Zurich, Munich, and Dublin. The last Air Canada flights out of London and Dubai are leaving today, Monday.
Non-stop or three-hop?
The first in the series of rescue flights out of Morocco took off in a north-west direction over the Atlantic heading straight for Quebec. This would surely have been a great deal more convenient than the route implemented by the Canadian government’s chartered plane, a 36-year old classic Boeing 737-200. The plane, operated by Nolinor Aviation, had to make a three-stop itinerary via Goose Bay (Canada), Reykjavik (Iceland) and Shannon (Ireland) to make it to its final destination in Casablanca.
As Air Canada’s regular commercial flights out of lock-down countries such as Australia and Germany are halted by the end of the week, if Canadians wish to return home after that, at least until the end of April, they will need to trust to operations like these coordinated efforts. Or to 36-year old 737-200s and a lot of hops along the way.
Have you been stranded as a result of travel restrictions or canceled flights? Has your government or national carrier launched any repatriation efforts? Let us know in the comments!