Airlines shift planes to get March Break travellers home amid Max 8 grounding

A number of domestic flights were cancelled

An Air Canada Boeing 737 Max aircraft arriving from Toronto prepares to land at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on March 12, 2019. Two Canadian airlines dealing with the grounding of Boeing Max 8 jets say they have re-assigned other planes to accommodate travellers returning home from March Break vacations. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

Two Canadian airlines dealing with the grounding of Boeing Max 8 jets say they have re-assigned other planes to accommodate travellers returning home from March Break vacations.

Both Air Canada and WestJet said Sunday they shifted planes to focus on routes taking travellers to and from vacation destinations like Mexico and the Caribbean.

But the airlines also acknowledged that despite those efforts, the loss of the Boeing jets caused the cancellation of a number of domestic flights over the weekend, as well as delays on customer support lines.

“Recognizing that it is March Break, our priority was to cover our north-south flying and so we have been able to accommodate the vast majority of customers travelling south or returning from the holiday,” Air Canada said in a statement.

The company did not say how many of its domestic flights had been cancelled but acknowledged “capacity challenges” on those routes.

READ MORE:Air Canada, WestJet expected to take financial hit from 737 Max 8 ban

Air Canada said it was working to add capacity in these markets “within the constraints imposed by the 737 fleet grounding.”

WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said that since the Max 8s were grounded this week the company has been working to off-set the impact.

“Of the more than 65,000 guests booked on MAX flights up to March 31, more than 85 per cent will have had little to no changes to their flight schedule,” Stewart said in a statement.

On its website, the company said it had been working hard to limit cancellations for people returning from southern destinations.

WestJet said Sunday the changes it made resulted in the cancellation of 14 flights affecting approximately 1,600 passengers, with the majority re-booked on flights Sunday or Monday.

Of those cancelled flights, all were domestic except for a single trip from Toronto to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

“Our teams have been working incredibly hard behind the scenes to limit cancellations to our sunny destinations during spring break and as a result, there have been no sun market cancellations, ensuring that families will be on their way to the beaches and sunshine,” WestJet said.

Last Wednesday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau grounded the Max 8s as a precautionary move, three days after the Ethiopian Airlines disaster that killed all 157 people on board, including 18 Canadians.

Air Canada has 24 Max 8s and WestJet has 13 — six per cent and seven per cent of their fleets of 400 and 175 aircraft, respectively.

Air Canada has estimated that its Max 8 jets carried between 9,000 and 12,000 passengers a day. WestJet said the grounding order will affect about 1,400 customers daily.

Aviation industry expert and McGill University associate professor Karl Moore said the companies were planning for the return of March Break travellers this week.

But regardless of how much juggling both Air Canada and WestJet did, there were bound to be cancelled or delayed flights because each company has lost thousands of seats, he said.

“They’re moving capacity around but there are limits to what they can do,” he said. ”It’s going to cost them money because there are going to be a bunch of people who miss flights and they’ll have to pay those costs.”

Moore said after the next few days pass, the industry will move into a period in April and May when travel numbers drop. That will give companies more time to cope with the loss of the planes and figure out a strategy to address it, he added.

The lull should also give Boeing an opportunity to address any issues with the jets, train pilots and begin to repair public trust in their planes which has been damaged after the crash, Moore said.

“Job number one in that industry is safety because if people feel it’s unsafe they’re not going to travel,” he said.

“Boeing has got to say … ‘We’re not going to have the Max 8 in the air unless we’re fully confident they’re safe to travel.’ It’s going to take time for Boeing to win people back.”

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Port Hardy RCMP cleared in arrest that left man with broken ribs, punctured lung: watchdog

The IIO noted the matter will not be referred to crown counsel for consideration of charges.

News from Port McNeill’s July 15 council meeting

Next council meeting will be held Aug. 19 at 7:00 p.m. and the public is welcome to attend.

Bradshaw’s Photo Highlight: Devil’s Bath is the largest cenote in Canada

“This trail is rough and should be executed with caution”

OPINION: MP Rachel Blaney takes aim at coastal fisheries restrictions

“We all share in the responsibility of taking care of our salmon habitats and populations”

Northern Vancouver Island regional science fair winners – 2019

Daniel Kornylo won one of the 12 provincial science fair awards.

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

Six inducted into BC Hockey Hall of Fame

The 26th ceremony in Penticton welcomed powerful figures both from on and off the ice

RCMP investigate two shootings in the Lower Mainland

Incidents happened in Surrey, with a victim being treated at Langley Memorial Hospital

CRA program to help poor file taxes yields noticeable bump in people helped

Extra money allows volunteer-driven clinics to operate year-round

Recall: Certain Pacific oysters may pose threat of paralytic shellfish poisoning

Consumers urged to either return affected packages or throw them out

How a Kamloops-born man helped put us on the moon

Jim Chamberlin did troubleshooting for the Apollo program, which led to its success

Sexual harassment complaints soaring amid ‘frat boy culture’ in Canada’s airline industry

‘It’s a #MeToo dumpster fire…and it’s exhausting for survivors’

How much do you know about the moon?

To mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing, see how well you know space

Body, burning truck found near northern B.C. town

RCMP unsure if the two separate discoveries are related

Most Read