Airline industry seeing fewer delays and cancellations compared to last year, Alghabra says

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the airline industry is seeing “significant improvement” this summer compared to last when it comes to reducing the number of flight cancellations and delays, despite several disruptions in recent weeks.

Alghabra’s message comes on the heels of nearly 2,000 delayed or cancelled Air Canada flights over the Canada Day long week, as well as a tweet by WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech laying the blame for his delayed flight from Vancouver this week at the feet of Nav Canada, the corporation behind Canada’s air traffic controllers.

“Frustrating!” von Hoensbroech tweeted Thursday. “We would have been perfectly on time, now many guests will miss their connections. Shows again why we need a proper shared accountability system across the entire sector!”

Alghabra said Friday he wanted to address the delays, because he knows they’re on the mind of Canadians this summer travel season, and pointed to his government’s plans to strengthen air passenger rights and introduce transparency and service standards in the industry as ways the Liberals are working to improve the situation.

“We’re seeing significant improvement today, notwithstanding the headlines that we saw recently, from where we were last year,” the transport minister said. “So we need to take stock in that, because there’s been significant improvement, but we are still not at where ideally we should be and Nav Canada is an important player in this.”

Alghabra added he’s been in conversations with the CEOs of Nav Canada and the country’s major airlines to find solutions.

In a statement to BNN Bloomberg, a spokesperson for Nav Canada said aircraft capacity issues in Vancouver combined with “unplanned absences” forced the delays.

“NAV CANADA takes any staffing-related (Ground Delay Programs) very seriously, and we work actively to mitigate them through forecasting, optimizing scheduling and bringing in additional resources,” the statement reads in part. “Our dedicated air traffic controllers are working actively to keep aircraft moving safely and efficiently.”

Alghabra said his office has been working with industry stakeholders to strengthen the system.

“You’ve heard me say this. You’ve heard the airport say this. You’ve heard the airlines say this, that the air sector is highly interconnected, complicated ecosystem and that there are a variety of reasons where sometimes disruptions occur,” Alghabra said. “Some of them are weather related. Some of them are shortage or staff related. Of course, I’m doing everything I can, and Transport Canada is doing everything we can, to ensure that the entire system works together well to improve efficiency.”

Significant delays and cancellations plagued Canadian airports for months last summer — even leading to Toronto’s Pearson Airport being dubbed the worst airport in the world for flight delays.

Further disruptions during the 2022 winter holiday season meant thousands of Canadians were waiting for hours or left stranded at various airports, and others said there was little to no communication from airlines, forcing them to scramble to make plans.

At the time, the federal government largely blamed the COVID-19 pandemic for the issues in the system, but has also vowed to strengthen air passenger rights and improve the travel experience in Canada.

Now, Alghabra says Canadians shouldn’t delay planning summer vacations out of concern for possible travel delays.

“I want Canadians to worry more about which hotel to stay at than what is happening, what’s going to happen, at airports or on planes,” he said.

“As I said, today’s performance is way better than it was last year,” he added. “And it needs to get better and we’re working on it, but I don’t want Canadians to spend time preoccupied with the operation of the sector. That’s left up to airlines, airports, Nav Canada, and Transport Canada, and we’re doing everything collectively we can to ensure that we have an efficient system.”

Article source: https://airlines.einnews.com/article/643608791/mDPLcQPb_tPx13QO?ref=rss&ecode=vaZAu9rk30b8KC5H

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