Air Canada and WestJet saw demand for travel surge this summer from pandemic lows, but half of the more than 153,000 flights during this period landed on time or within 15 minutes of their scheduled arrival time.
Between June 1 and September 5 this year, Air Canada scheduled 109,097 flights while WestJet had 52,646 flights scheduled, according to data from Cirium, an aviation analytics company. While both airlines reduced capacity and flew fewer flights in the summer of 2022 than in the same period in 2019 — Air Canada flew 159,367 flights and WestJet 68,965 — both also saw increased delays. Cirium says 43 percent of Air Canada’s flights landed on time this summer, while 61 percent of WestJet’s flights were on time.
Prior to the pandemic, Cerium says the time limit rate was 70 percent for Air Canada and 84 percent for WestJet. (While Cirium tracks data for other Canadian airlines — including Porter, Air Transat, Flair Airlines, Lynx Air, and Sunwing — it has not been able to confidently report arrival times for these airlines due to the unreliability of some airport data.)
This summer saw chaos at some of the nation’s largest airports, as an increase in pent-up travel demand combined with labor shortages and processing issues led to a flurry of cancellations and delays.
Air Canada cut thousands of flights from its schedule between July and August – an average of 154 flights per day – following the airline disruption that CEO Michael Russo described as “complicated and inevitable” at the time. WestJet CEO Alexis von Honesbroech also said the company made a series of proactive cuts — most of them at Toronto’s Pearson Airport — before the summer in anticipation of airport delays.
Canadian airlines have reduced the number of flights by about 60,000 flights this summer compared to before the outbreak of the pandemic, but cancellations doubled as the industry grapples with high demand and a shortage of labor.
According to Cirium, airlines including Air Canada, WestJet, Porter Airlines, Flair Airlines and Air Transat had nearly 200,000 flights scheduled this summer but canceled more than 9,000 of them. Before the pandemic, Canadian airlines were flying more flights and canceling fewer flights. There were approximately 260,000 flights scheduled by Air Canada in the summer of 2019, and only 4,800 canceled.
Air Canada took the most flights and had the worst cancellation rate among Canadian airlines, with 6.7 percent of scheduled flights (7,353 flights) canceled during the summer. Flyer Airlines had a cancellation rate of 4.5 percent (324 flights), followed by Sup with a cancellation rate of 3.4 percent (158 flights) and WestJet with 2.4 percent of scheduled flights canceled this summer (1,254 flights).
recovery in progress
The Canadian airline industry says the situation has improved in recent weeks.
Transport Canada says that in the fourth week of August, 2.5 per cent of scheduled flights were canceled, an improvement from 5 per cent during the first week of July. The government says 86 percent of flights at the country’s four busiest airports — Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and Calgary — departed on time or within an hour of their scheduled departure, an improvement from 75 percent in the first week of July.
Air Canada said in August it had improved service levels over the summer, reducing wait and cancellation times and bringing the baggage mishandling rate back to 2019 levels.
“While I am very satisfied with the progress made so far, and thank our employees for their tireless efforts, we all continue to work hard on behalf of our customers to complete our recovery,” Russo said in a statement in August.
“The recovery seen at the end of the last quarter has been confirmed in recent months,” Transat CEO Annick Girard said in a statement.
“The pace of sales is currently very comparable to 2019.”
Elijah Sikerska is a senior correspondent for Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter Tweet embed.