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

Travelers Michael and Patricia Beers of Calgary wait in line at WestJet to get another hotel voucher, after they got stuck at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, on July 2.Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

Canadian airlines and airports took the top spots for flight delays over the long weekend in July, registering more delays for any other flights worldwide.

Air Canada ranked first in delays on Saturday and Sunday with two-thirds of its flights delayed — 717 in total — according to tracking service FlightAware. It was more than 14 percentage points above the three tie-breakers in second place.

Gas Aviation — a Halifax-based company that provides regional services to Air Canada — and low-cost airline Air Canada Rouge each saw 53 percent of delayed flights, placing it second alongside Greek regional airline Olympic Air.

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 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 said last week it would cut more than 15 percent of its summer schedule, nearly 10,000 flights in July and August, as the country’s airline network slumped amid an overwhelming travel recovery.

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 900 new security screening workers since April — although not all of them have a permit to operate the scanners — according to the Federal Transportation Administration.

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.”

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