The woes for travellers flying with Air Canada have been felt locally and across the country, but the CEO of Sault Ste. Marie Airport Development Corporation says relief is coming.
Due to an air transport system impacted with reduced staffing levels and surging demand, Air Canada recently announced 9,500 of its flights will be grounded for the months of July and August.
The news to halt 15 per cent of the flight schedule leaves many fliers in dismay, but Terry Bos, CEO of the SSMADC, says the grounding should reduce the number of cancellations that have been especially felt over the past six weeks.
“Hopefully, it will increase the reliability of the flights that are coming to the Sault and reduce the number of delays and cancellations,” he says. “We understand the frustration and we’re hoping the changes Air Canada has made will eliminate the short-term cancellations and they’ll be able to fly their full schedule which will be welcome news for everybody.”
While other airports across the north were impacted by Air Canada’s reduction ruling, the Sault wasn’t included in the 9,500 grounded planes as local flights have been around 80-90% full – significantly higher than other airports.
Bos says that’s good news locally.
“We were certainly fortunate to get the news we weren’t part of the reduction, and it actually could help us,” he says. “It’s going to alleviate some of the issues that are happening in Toronto and other areas, and therefore, hopefully lead to less last-minute cancellations that we’ve been seeing for the last month to six weeks.”
Bos says the last month has been incredibly tough on local travellers as around 25 to 30 per cent of all Air Canada flights at the Sault Airport have been cancelled.
The last arrival flight of the day in particular has been chronic.
“We’ve seen the last arrival into the Sault cancelled about five or six times a week,” he says. “That means the first flight out in the morning is also cancelled since the plane isn’t here. That’s the downfall; when you get one flight cancelled out of Toronto, you also lose the flight that would have gone from the Sault to Toronto.”
Bos says their road to recovery is a long one, but promising days lie ahead.
“We’re only at around half of the number of flights we had prior to the pandemic, so there’s still a long way to go in regards to recovery and getting the number of flights back here,” he says. “But it’s definitely promising. We’ve seen increases essentially every month of this calendar year which is an encouraging trend.”
The Sault Airport numbers for June haven’t been released, but Bos says they saw around 11,000 passengers in May.
“That’s only 65% of what we would have had before the pandemic,” he says. “There’s a long way to go, but we’ve seen substantial rebounds compared to last year.”