VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – In a bid to ensure customers have “scheduling certainty,” Air Canada has grounded its Boeing 737 Max planes for at least three weeks.
Safety concerns led the federal government to park more than 40 passenger jets, meaning many travellers have been scrambling to make connecting flights, but the country’s largest airline has been waiving re-booking and cancellation fees.
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So far, it seems the grounding of the aircraft hasn’t caused major problems for local hotel operators.
Navid Sariolghalam, the general manager of the Sutton Place Hotel in downtown Vancouver, says only a handful of customers have been affected there.
“The airline’s been somewhat accommodating in finding alternative routes to get the guests to their home. Obviously, we are are here in case they have to stay another night,” he said.
“So far, the impact has been somewhat minimal, but I understand that this is going to continue on for about three weeks … We could potentially see, perhaps down the line, more issues with guests trying to get home.”
He adds they are keeping a close eye on the situation so they can be as prepared as possible to help stranded passengers.
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Pradeep Puri is the general manager at the Westin Grand in downtown Vancouver. He says they haven’t noticed people booking extra nights due to a disruption with their flights home. “I checked with my reservation department. We have not seen any impact.”
“This wasn’t going to be a busy weekend, just prior to the March break. It’s steady, but not overly busy this weekend. We really haven’t seen any difference,” he said.
Puri admits if the aircraft are grounded for a prolonged period, that could have an impact on business.
On Wednesday, Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Canada was joining dozens of countries in grounding the Boeing 737 Max aircraft. The United States followed suit a few hours later.
The Max fleets were grounded following Sunday’s crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane, which killed everyone on board — including 18 Canadians.
Garneau said the decision to ground the planes was a precautionary move, after a review of the available evidence in the wake of the disaster.
Air Canada has been inundated with calls, as travellers scrambled to rebook flights.
Calls to Air Canada’s customer serivce line Wednesday and Thursday prompted a recording that said call volume has temporarily exceeded the company’s capacity to answer or even place caller on hold. The message cites “unforeseen circumstances,” and directs callers to Air Canada’s website.
The logjam prompted Air Canada to set up a service line for Max 8 passengers flying in the next 72 hours: 1-833-354-5963.
Air Canada said it will waive cancellation charges and rebooking fees for Max 8 flights within three weeks of the original travel date.
WestJet has a no-fee cancellation policy for Max 8 flights, though rebooked flights may cost more.