Air Canada is suspending flights to most Northwest destinations for the month of April and redirecting all passengers through the Northwest Regional Airport in Terrace (YXT). The announcement Thursday (March 19) is part of the company’s global curtailment of flights in response to government travel restrictions and border closures world wide to limit the spread COVID-19.
Flights between Vancouver and the regional airports in Prince Rupert and Smithers will cease April 1, while flights between Vancouver and Sandspit on Haida Gwaii terminate March 23. All flights are expected to resume May 1.
Customers will be contacted by Air Canada for a full credit on cancelled flights that’s valid for 24 months.
Westjet meanwhile is continuing service to all the airports in its Canadian network, but is cutting the frequency of flights by about 50 per cent. They urge customers to check on the status of flights before travelling to the airport, and will offer full credit for cancelled departures.
YXT general manager Carman Hendry said he learned about Air Canada’s flight suspensions Thursday morning on Facebook. He added the situation is rapidly evolving, but he doesn’t expect flight suspensions elsewhere to increase the number of flights to Terrace.
“I believe there’s enough capacity on the existing flights to cover for the travellers from other airports,” Hendry said.
Extra janitorial shifts were added to the airport two weeks ago to help keep common areas disinfected, but shifts for other operational staff are being kept to a minimum. Administrative staff are also working from home.
These precautions aside, there are no special procedures in place for travellers accessing the small baggage return area. Hendry asks people picking up travellers remain outside or in their cars to allow for extra space in the arrivals area.
On the national level, Air Canada is reducing its domestic network from 62 airports to 40. Further reductions are possible based on decreased demand as Canadians return from abroad, or government edict.
The airline has also put in place temporary, one-way fares to Canada to enable customers abroad to return home.
“The restrictions on travel imposed by governments worldwide, while understandable, are nonetheless having a cataclysmic effect upon the global airline industry,” Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive of Air Canada said. “Our immediate focus is on ensuring the safety and well-being of our employees, customers and communities. At the same time, we are exploring with the Government of Canada possibilities to maintain essential operations to enable as many Canadians as possible to return to Canada, and to support other vital transport needs, including the shipment of goods and cargo during the crisis as required in any state of emergency.