Air Canada and airports top the list of global delays over the weekend

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Date: July 4, 2022 2:39 PM EDT

Last update on Monday, July 4, 2022 5:55 PM EST

MONTREAL – Canadian airlines and airports took the top spots for flight delays over the long weekend in July, registering more than almost any other company worldwide.

Air Canada ranked first in delays on Saturday and Sunday with two-thirds of its flights — 717 in total — arriving late, according to tracking service FlightAware. At 67 percent on Sunday, it was more than 14 percentage points above the three second-placed airlines, two of which are affiliated with Air Canada.

Jazz Aviation — a Halifax-based company that provides regional services to Air Canada — and low-cost carrier Air Canada Rouge saw 53 percent of flights delayed, putting it second to Greek regional airline Olympic Air on Sunday.

On Saturday, WestJet and budget affiliate Swoop ranked third and fourth with 55 percent.

On the airport front, Toronto’s Pearson finished second on Sunday after 53 percent of departures were delayed, just below China’s main Guangzhou airport. Pearson, the main hub for Air Canada, beat Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

Montreal Airport ranked sixth on Sunday with 43 percent of delayed takeoffs, on par with London’s Heathrow, according to FlightAware figures.

air Canada It said last week it would cut more than 15 percent of its summer schedule, or nearly 10,000 flights in July and August, affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers as the country’s airline network slumped amid an overwhelming travel revival.

Booked by public holidays in Canada and the United States, the weekend saw scenes of long queues and baggage mazes flooding social media as airports around the world grappled with the onset of peak travel season after two years of pent-up demand.

Experts say passenger flow at Canadian airports has already reached 2019 levels during peak times, despite being roughly 80 percent of the overall pre-pandemic volume.

“This will be with us all summer,” said Helen Baker, airline analyst at investment firm Queen.

Almost every airline has encouraged people to retire early or take vacations. And those people who retired early probably don’t want to go back to work,” she said of airline employees.

“It’s hard to rebuild away from those low levels.”

Unions say some pilots have yet to renew their licenses, while jobs with ground crews and baggage handlers are still vacant – or quickly vacated – due to low wages and stressful working conditions.

Government agencies have been on a hiring spree for airport security and customs, with more than 1,000 new security screening workers since April — although not all of them have a permit to operate the scanners — according to the Federal Transportation Administration.

Air Canada has employed more than 2,000 airport workers and more than 750 in customer service centers this year for salaries in excess of 32,000 – 93 percent of 2019 levels.

Airlines have also used the pandemic to remove aircraft types from their fleet, ground their oldest aircraft and retire. “It’s hard to get these planes back once they’ve been parked without doing a lot of maintenance,” Becker added.

“With demand continuing to rise, we are mainly looking at airlines not being able to easily accommodate it. And I think that is true around the world.”

In a note obtained by The Canadian Press, Air Canada CEO Michael Russo warned staff Wednesday night that “Canada Day weekend is going to be tough.”

He said simplifying the schedule would not likely make the airline “see the full benefit until the latter part of July”.

In an email to passengers the same night, Russo apologized for the cancellations and a “lack of customer service,” but also said the flight reductions were caused by pressures on the “global aviation system,” calling them “unprecedented and unexpected.”

Since January, Canada’s two largest airlines or their affiliates have accounted for five of the seven largest airlines for the percentage of delayed flights, according to FlightAware.

WestJet’s Swoop ranks second with 50 percent and Air Canada is seventh with 43 percent. Regional subsidiary WestJet Encore, Air Canada Rouge and Jazz Aviation are in the middle.

Swelling crowds in international access areas prompted the Greater Toronto Airports Authority’s fire chief to issue guidance warning of potential “danger” from blocked exits and “life safety concerns.”

“Passenger congestion in the arrivals transport level in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 continues to exceed acceptable levels at certain times, in part because some air carriers have not followed applicable booking procedures for the purpose of maintaining safety in the terminal buildings,” Todd Aitken cautioned in an order Dated June 23 and obtained by The Canadian Press.

On top of the jams at security and customs checkpoints, Air Canada continues to point out restrictions on the number of flights “imposed by air traffic control in both Canada and the United States that force airlines to cancel at the last minute.”

WestJet said in a press release that it has installed its processes to “prevent interactive cancellations.”

“However, there are still significant operational challenges across the Canadian aviation ecosystem that can get out of our control, contributing to delays.”

This report was first published by The Canadian Press on July 4, 2022.

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