Air Canada retrenches further, curtails most international flights

Big jet comes in for landing

One day after saying it will pare its system in half and trans-Pacific flying by 75%, Air Canada on Wednesday announced the phased suspension of most international and U.S. crossborder flights by the end of March.

The company said the move was in response to nations increasingly prohibiting travel from certain regions. Earlier in the day, the U.S. and Canada agreed to close their joint border to non-essential travel. On Monday, Canada closed its borders to foreign nationals other than those from the U.S., which last week imposed similar restrictions on travel from 28 European countries.

Air Canada (TO: AC) said it will continue to operate “air bridges” between one or more of its Canadian hubs and the cities of London, Paris, Frankfurt, Delhi, Tokyo and Hong Kong from April 1 until at least Aprll 30 to facilitate the continued repatriation of citizens to their home countries and support the essential movement of goods. The change reduces the airlines’ network from 101 airports to six.

The carrier said it will eliminate service to 40 U.S. cities as of April 1. The 13 remaining cities in its network will be New York (LaGuardia Airport); Newark, New Jersey; Boston; Washington (Dulles International Airport and Reagan National Airport; Chicago (O’Hare); Houston; Seattle; San Francisco; Los Angeles; Denver; Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Air Canada will continue to serve all provinces and territories in Canada, with a reduced network of 40 airports — down from 62.

“The restrictions on travel imposed by governments worldwide, while understandable, are nonetheless having a cataclysmic effect upon the global airline industry. Our immediate focus is on ensuring the safety and well-being of our employees, customers and communities,” CEO and President Calin Rovinescu said in a statement. “We are working around the clock to deal with the impact for our customers and our business of the various travel restrictions that are being made by governments at unprecedented speed without advance warning.” 

Air Canada on Tuesday outlined some of the financial damage it is experiencing and how it is trying to maintain liquidity. With a large chunk of its fleet idle, Air Canada is trying to turn passenger planes into temporary freighters because there is high demand from shippers looking for ways to move cargo now that passenger networks are being dismantled, FreightWaves reported.

United Airlines (NASDAQ: UAL) is also marketing full planes for cargo charters, according to the report. Jan Krems, the president of United Cargo, essentially confirmed the new product in a message to customers late Wednesday.

“We have secured additional capacity on selected routes worldwide through our own aircraft and our interline partners,” he said. “We also continue to utilize additional trucking options to serve you.”