Air Canada suspends flights between Yellowknife and Calgary, Vancouver

The Calgary-Yellowknife and Vancouver-Yellowknife routes are among 42 domestic routes the airline is suspending during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Flights between Yellowknife and Edmonton do not appear to be affected

An Air Canada plane arrives at the Whitehorse airport in winter. The airline plans to suspend flights between Yellowknife and Calgary and Yellowknife and Vancouver as part of major service reductions due to COVID-19. (Mike Rudyk/CBC)

Air Canada will soon suspend flights between Yellowknife and Calgary, and Yellowknife and Vancouver as part of major cuts to service in response to the novel coronavirus.

The Calgary-Yellowknife route will be suspended from March 23 to April 30, and the Vancouver-Yellowknife route will be put on hold between April 1 and April 30, according to the airline's website.

Flights between Yellowknife and Edmonton do not appear to be affected.

Despite Air Canada's website saying the routes were suspended, the airline was still allowing online bookings Friday morning for flights on these routes during the stated suspension period. 

Air Canada did not immediately respond to a request for clarification. The territorial government, which operates the Yellowknife Airport, directed questions on the matter to Air Canada.

Susan Rintoul and her family are hoping to get back to Yellowknife on one of Air Canada's Calgary-Yellowknife flights this weekend, right before the suspension goes into effect.

We just want to get back home.- Susan Rintoul

The family is in Deep River, Ont., near Ottawa, for a funeral. Yesterday they learned their return flight home with Air North was cancelled, but they were able to secure seats with Air Canada.

In the current climate, however, nothing is certain.

"We've been following Facebook all the time and we've been watching flights closing down, everybody declaring an emergency state in the provinces," said Rintoul.

After their Air North flight was cancelled, Susan, Briar and Dan Rintoul are booked to fly back to Yellowknife on one of Air Canada's last Calgary-Yellowknife flights. (Submitted by Susan Rintoul)

Rintoul is nervous about travelling through large airports in Ottawa and Calgary, but says the family is taking precautions: washing their hands and carrying Lysol wipes. They say they'll self-monitor for symptoms when they get back to Yellowknife. 

"We just want to get back home back to our dog and our cat and our life."

The Calgary and Vancouver routes are among 42 domestic routes the airline plans to suspend during the COVID-19 pandemic. Air Canada has slashed its domestic network from 62 airports to 40 for the month of April. It could cut more airports if passenger demand drops further, or upon direction from the federal government.

Still, the airline says it intends to keep serving all provinces and territories. 

"Our immediate focus is on ensuring the safety and well-being of our employees, customers and communities," said Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive of Air Canada, in a statement on the airline's website.

We are working around the clock to deal with the impact for our customers.- Calin Rovinescu, Air Canada president

"At the same time, we are exploring with the government of Canada possibilities to maintain essential operations," Rovinescu said.

"We are working around the clock to deal with the impact for our customers and our business of the various travel restrictions that are being made by governments at unprecedented speed without advance warning." 

As of 1 p.m. Thursday, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Northwest Territories.

WestJet to cut domestic service by about 50 per cent

WestJet has not posted any changes to Yellowknife flights on its website, but a spokesperson confirmed Thursday that the airline plans to cut its domestic service by about 50 per cent. It hasn't yet revealed which routes will be affected.

The airline is suspending all commercial international flights for a 30 day period after Sunday.

"After that, we will be operating rescue and repatriation flights with our partners," reads a statement from Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO, on its website.

Air Canada plans to suspend the majority of its international flights by March 31, including flights to the U.S.

Canadian North focusing on freight

Canadian North says it's taking a hit with fewer people travelling in light of COVID-19. As a result, it's prioritizing freight transportation. 

The airline says it will maintain "minimum passenger service levels" for every community in its network.

"We are confident that the steps we are taking will ensure the viability of our business, for the benefit of everyone who depends on us," said Canadian North President and CEO Chris Avery, in a statement on its website.


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