Canada’s Air Transat, the country’s third largest passenger carrier, has suspended all flights from Toronto for the rest of the winter season citing new travel restrictions that make conducting normal operations almost impossible.
The Montreal-based airline says on 27 January that new coronavirus testing requirements, introduced by the government of Justin Trudeau on 7 January, in addition to a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all incoming passengers that has been in effect since last March, has led to a decline in already anaemic bookings.
“Continued travel restrictions and the numerous measures imposed by the federal government, including the requirement to present a negative Covid-19 test and to quarantine upon return to Canada, have had a significant impact on our bookings,” the airline tells FlightGlobal. “We must, therefore, revise our winter flight schedule, as we have been doing since the beginning of the pandemic, based on the evolution of the situation and demand.”
The carrier says it will continue to operate flights from Montreal to Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and France.
“However, we are suspending all flights out of Toronto for the remainder of the winter season,” the airline adds.
According to Cirium networks data, the holiday specialist previously had scheduled direct flights from Toronto to Cuba, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Portugal.
Air Transat is in precarious straits as it awaits the completion of a friendly takeover by Montreal-headquartered competitor Air Canada. The global pandemic and its effects on mobility – with no real end in sight – have forced the airline to repeatedly cut operations and staff.
On 15 December, Transat’s shareholders overwhelmingly approved a plan under which the company would be sold to the legacy carrier at a significant discount from an earlier offer. The new agreement, which the companies reached in August, calls for Air Canada to acquire Transat for C$5 per share ($3.92), or about C$190 million. Previously, Air Canada had planned to acquire Transat for C$270 million.
More than 91% of shareholders voted in favour of the deal, which expires after 15 February 2021. A few days after the shareholder approval, the Superior Court of Quebec also green-lighted the transaction.
The acquisition, which had, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, been slated to close last year, still requires approval by regulators in Canada and the European Union. The regulators’ responses are due in the coming days.
The air transport industry in Canada has been stricken by the global health crisis on multiple fronts. The government’s strict travel restrictions, now in their 11th month, have kept many potential customers away. A mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in the country, in addition to province-specific rules, and the new testing requirement for all inbound passengers, have made both domestic and international travel difficult and complicated.
In addition, the Trudeau government has so far declined to offer sector-specific financial aid to support the airline industry through the pandemic. As a result, thousands of jobs have been lost and carriers have had to repeatedly adjust their networks and capacity.