Air Canada is canceling more than 9,500 flights this summer. What that means for your travel plans

Air Canada planes stand on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on April 28, 2021.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Air Canada announced last week that it was canceling thousands of flights in July and August in a bid to quell what it said was “unprecedented strains” that the overwhelming resurgence in travel had imposed on the airline industry.

The airline was already operating at just 80 percent of pre-pandemic levels. The move sparked outrage from consumers and advocates, who say Air Canada should offer better compensation to hundreds of thousands of passengers whose summer flights have now been cancelled.

Air Canada is reducing summer flights as the industry faces “unprecedented strains” on travel operations

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline believed the schedule changes announced last week would help stabilize the situation but warned it would take time.

This is what the cancellations mean for your travel plans.

How many flights are canceled?

More than 9,500 flights will be canceled in July and August — or an average of 154 flights per day — as Air Canada plans to cut 15 percent of its schedule, most of which will be to and from Toronto or Montreal.

Three routes from Montreal to Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Kelowna, BC will be temporarily suspended. Air Canada will also suspend its Toronto to Fort McMurray, Alta route.

International flights will remain unaffected, partly because they are more difficult to rebook, Mr Fitzpatrick said.

Some of the main problems for the airline relate to late-evening flights on single-aisle aircraft, he said. The reduction in evening flights, Mr Fitzpatrick added, will allow Air Canada to improve takeoff performance the next morning, stabilize the airline’s flight schedule and help in other areas such as baggage handling, catering and aircraft maintenance.

Does Air Canada offer refunds and financial compensation?

Currently, Air Canada’s policy on delays and cancellations offers customers the opportunity to receive a full refund, regardless of the reason, if a flight is canceled, delayed more than three hours, or a connection is added to an itinerary.

The airline is also offering compensation — separate from refunds — between $400 and $1,000 for travelers who arrive at their final destination three hours or more after their scheduled arrival time, for reasons within Air Canada’s control and unrelated either due to a cancellation or delay due to security issues.

Cancellations for reasons within Air Canada’s control include crew scheduling issues or the unavailability of required equipment. However, travelers whose flights have been canceled due to safety issues such as maintenance issues, updated travel advisories, inclement weather and sick crew members or passengers are not eligible for compensation.

Further protective measures for passengers are coming. Changes to air passenger protection regulations that came into effect in 2019 will require airlines to offer refunds or alternative flights to passengers whose journey is canceled or delayed by at least three hours for reasons beyond the airline’s control. They come into force on September 8th.

Airlines reimburse passengers with long delays and cancellations under new rules

The changes allow customers to choose between a refund or another flight departing within 48 hours on the airline in question or a partner airline, at no additional cost. Big airlines have to put customers on their competitors’ planes. But until then, passengers whose flights are canceled or delayed by three hours or more due to reasons beyond the airline’s control, including weather or closed borders, are not eligible for a refund and the airline must rebook them on the next available flight .

How to check if your flight is affected

Air Canada’s flight status page on the website allows passengers who have already booked a flight to see if it has been canceled up to a week in advance. Travelers with a reservation can enter their flight number or route and departure date into the search engine.

When you book a flight with Air Canada, the airline says you’re also automatically opted-in to receive flight notifications, which can be reconfirmed at check-in. For additional questions, travelers within Canada and the United States can call 1-888-247-2262 at any time.

What to do if your luggage is lost?

If you can’t find your baggage at baggage claim, Air Canada says to contact your airline’s baggage service agent upon arrival, who will ask for your contact information, a detailed description of your baggage and items, your baggage claim stubs, and boarding will pass.

This information is used to assist you in compiling a WorldTracer incident report which you can use on the WorldTracer website to update or check the status of your lost baggage. Air Canada encourages anyone who does not immediately report this incident to call Air Canada’s central baggage office at 1-888-689-2247 at any time as soon as possible.

If your baggage is not found after three days, you will be asked to fill out a baggage tracing form, which can be found here.

If your baggage is lost, Air Canada will refund checked baggage fees and offer interim refunds for “reasonable expenses incurred by you for rentals or essential items.” You can request a refund here, provided your claims are supported by receipts.

“Each delayed bag is costly to us in post-flight handling and delivery, so we have a double incentive to get bags delivered to customers,” Air Canada said in an emailed statement.

With reports from David Milstead, Eric Atkins and The Canadian Press.