Air Transat temporarily suspends operations, citing new COVID-19 travel restrictions

Air Transat announced Friday it is suspending its regular operations effective immediately.

The move comes after the Canadian government announced tighter COVID-19 travel restrictions, including requiring Canadian airlines to suspend flights to sun destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

The Montreal-based company, however, announced a complete suspension of all Air Transat flights, including to Europe, until April 30.

The focus is now shifting to repatriating customers to Canada over the next two weeks.

“We will do everything we can to return our customers back to Canada,” said CEO Jean-Marc Eustache.

Read more: Airlines suspend flights to sun destinations until April 30 amid growing variant concerns

In a statement on its website, Transat said the company is doing what it can to minimize the impact on travellers, including making sure there are sufficient flights available to bring Canadians abroad back home.

Return flights scheduled between Jan. 29 and Feb. 13 inclusively, for vacationers who are already abroad, will operate as scheduled.

The company warned, however, that return flights between Feb. 14 and April 30 are being cancelled.

“Rest assured that you will automatically be rebooked on another Air Transat flight back home between February 4 and 13 inclusively, and options for your new travel itinerary will be sent to you as soon as possible,” the statement reads.

Bookings for roundtrip flights that have yet to depart are also being cancelled until April 30, inclusively. Transat said travellers will receive a refund for the amount paid in the original method of payment. Those who booked trips with travel credits will be refunded in kind.

Read more: ‘This is very good news’: Quebec welcomes Ottawa’s stricter COVID-19 travel requirements

Eustache said the airline has been doing its part when it comes to ensuring the health and safety of its clientele.

“We obviously share the government’s objective to protect Canadians from COVID-19, including the new variants, and this is what all of our personnel have been doing in recent months, particularly on board our aircraft, with a comprehensive program of adapted sanitary measures,” Eustache said.

The company, however, is calling on Ottawa do its part to ensure the survival of Canadian airlines.

It reiterated its calls for the Canadian government to put in place financial programs to help airlines mitigate the impact of the pandemic and level out the playing field.

“The airline industry is highly competitive, and international carriers from other countries have benefited from significant support measures from their governments since the beginning of the pandemic,” a news release reads.

“This is creating a considerable imbalance that has hurt the competitiveness of Canada’s airlines for months and threatens their survival.”

Transat says it has already put in place cost-cutting measures, “including temporary layoffs affecting 75 per cent of its staff.”

The newest COVID-19 restrictions and the ensuing temporary shutdown, is only adding to the burden. The company said it has resulted in further layoffs of both flight crews and support staff.

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