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Chaos at airports: Air Canada chief apologises promises to restore pre-endemic standards soon

Cancellation of flights, inordinate delays in baggage delivery, long queues at check-in counters and customs clearance.

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Toronto: Air Canada chief regrets travails of air travellers, promises to restore pre-endemic standards

While there is no let-up in growing incidents of harassment of air travellers at various airports, Michael Rousseau, President and Chief Executive Officer of  Air Canada, has apologised promising to restore pre-endemic standards of operation at the earliest.

“We very clearly see the challenges at hand, that we are taking action, and that we are confident we have the strategy to address them,” he said in a communique addressed to loyal members of Air Canada.

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Reports of cancellation of flights, inordinate delays in baggage delivery, long queues at check in counters and customs clearance have been growing ever since the gradual withdrawal of restrictions on air travel due to the corona pandemic started.

Rousseau said  “at Air Canada, we know how important travel plans are. This is even more the case today when many are taking their first trip in years following the pandemic. Whether for long‑anticipated vacations, visits with relatives and friends, or for business, we are grateful and recognize our responsibility when people entrust their travel to our airline.

His long communique to the loyal Air Canada customers tried to explain the reasons behind the present chaos and said that Air Canada was taking up the problematic areas with agencies concerned for finding solutions.

The communique reads: “Regrettably, things are not business as usual in our industry globally, and this is affecting our operations and our ability to serve you with our normal standards of care. The COVID‑19 pandemic brought the world air transport system to a halt in early 2020. Now, after more than two years, global travel is resurgent, and people are returning to flying at a rate never seen in our industry.

“This surge in travel has created unprecedented and unforeseen strains on all aspects of the global aviation system. Around the world, there are recurring incidents of flight delays and airport congestion, resulting from a complex array of persistent factors impacting airlines and our partners in the aviation ecosystem. Similar effects are being seen in other industries too, where companies and suppliers are struggling to restart, unclog supply chains and meet pent‑up demand.

“At Air Canada, we anticipated many of these factors and began taking tangible action during the depth of the pandemic to be ready for a rapid restart. Yet, despite detailed and careful planning, the largest and fastest scale of hiring in our history, as well as investments in aircraft and equipment, it is now clear that Air Canada’s operations too have been disrupted by the industry’s complex and unavoidable challenges. The result has been flight cancellations and customer service shortfalls on our part that we would never have intended for our customers or for our employees, and for which we sincerely apologize.

“In response, we took a number of important steps, including introducing flexible ticket policies, new travel self-management tools, improvements to airport operations, as well adjustments to our schedule ‑ all to strengthen operational resiliency and to give customers more options. However, to bring about the level of operational stability we need, with reluctance, we are now making meaningful reductions to our schedule in July and August in order to reduce passenger volumes and flows to a level we believe the air transport system can accommodate.

“This was not an easy decision, as it will result in additional flight cancellations that will have a negative impact on some customers. But doing this in advance allows affected customers to take time to make other arrangements in an orderly manner, rather than have their travel disrupted shortly before or during their journey, with few alternatives available. It will also enable us to more reliably serve all customers.

“I can assure you Air Canada is also working in close cooperation with airports, government, and its third‑party service providers, who all are striving to return our industry to pre‑pandemic standards of operation.

“We are convinced these changes will bring about the improvements we have targeted. But to set expectations, it should also be understood the real benefits of this action will take time and be felt only gradually as the industry regains the reliability and robustness it had attained prior to the pandemic.

“On behalf of all of us at Air Canada, please accept my sincere apologies for any disruption you have experienced or may experience with your travel plans during this unprecedented period. I also assure you that we very clearly see the challenges at hand, that we are taking action, and that we are confident we have the strategy to address them. This is our company’s chief focus at every level.

“Thank you for your patience and understanding. We certainly look forward to future opportunities to serve air travellers and regain their loyalty at a time when we can better demonstrate our commitment to taking good care of customers,” Rousseau concludes.

Prabhjot Singh

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