If you were hoping to go visit Canada this summer — as I am — you may be getting nervous about those plans. Thanks to an impressively terrible operation at Air Canada and a moderately terrible one at WestJet along with the return of arrival testing rules, Canada is uncharacteristically proving to be exceedingly unfriendly.
Let’s start with Air Canada. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a sustained meltdown to the extent that Air Canada has pulled off this summer. And I’m not using the “meltdown” word lightly. According to Anuvu data, from June 1 – July 14, Air Canada has been canceling nearly 10 percent of its scheduled flights (actually 9.18 percent) while getting a mere 36.1 percent of flights to their destination within 14 minutes of schedule. It seems unnecessary to say this, but… that is really, really bad.
2022 Air Canada Operational Performance By Day
As you can see, I’m being generous just stopping at June 1. This has been an ongoing slide in performance since April, and it is not getting better.
The cancellation problem lies primarily with the regional flights — all of which are now operated by Jazz — which have been canceling at about a 15 percent clip regularly. But mainline operations are still canceling more than 3 percent and Rouge is just barely better than that. For those flights that do operate, mainline is just shy of 35 percent on time while regional flying is up at 36.4 percent and Rouge sits on its lofty perch at 41.1 percent. This is horrendous all around.
The numbers are so bad that it makes WestJet look good. And WestJet does not actually look good. Since June 1, it has canceled over 3 percent of its flights with an on-time arrival rate of 54.01 percent.
2022 WestJet Operational Performance By Day
This is downright embarrassing and an alarming look at the state of travel to/from/within Canada. Now, some of this could have been attributed to the ill-thought-through testing on arrival program which was in place until early June. That program had the government randomly testing even vaccinated travelers upon landing, creating a massive backup at the airports. That program ended for all but unvaccinated travelers on June 11 when the government buckled under pressure to get things moving again. But as you can see, things did not improve after June 11, so this can’t be the only reason.
I’ve reached out to Air Canada to get a sense of what’s going on, and I was told that it was everyone else’s fault.
As has been well reported in the media, the global air transport industry is currently challenged due to issues with airport capacity issues, airport-managed baggage systems and third-party providers of such services as passenger screening, customs, and air navigation. We are working hard with these partners and governments to resolve these issues as they are affecting the performance of airlines.
So, what can be done? Well, unlike European countries which are imposing caps on travel, Canada seems to be content with just making people not want to visit by imposing bad policies.
That stubborn testing program returns today for even vaccinated travelers. The good news is that the arrival testing is no longer done in airports. Travelers have to provide an email address upon entry during customs and immigration formalities, and an email will be sent within 15 minutes saying whether or not a test is required. If so, travelers will be able to do a proctored test at home or, I think, be given a lab to visit. If the test is positive, that means there’s a required 10-day isolation with almost no exceptions. (If you have a private vehicle, you can apparently get permission to leave the country.)
But guess what? The at-home tests say you’ll get results within 4-7 days of testing. So… what is the point of this stupidity? The government has been quoted as saying that this is being done to detect new variants when they enter the country. Ok, that’s fine. But if it’s about detection alone, then why do positive tests then force a 10-day isolation?
As I mentioned at the top, I have a big family trip to Canada coming up next month. There are ten of us going, so chances of someone being randomly selected seem pretty decent. Let’s say one person is, and the test is taken. Then the result comes back positive in 4 days. Now, isolation will be required for, presumably, another 6 days?
At that point, I will have infected my entire family, let alone anyone else I come into close contact with during my travels. The isolation rules will do nothing but deter visitors.
To summarize, if you’re going to Canada, get ready to get anxious. Your flight will more likely than not be delayed and a cancellation is a distinct possibility as well. Meanwhile, if you get selected for random testing and show up positive — as will increasingly be the case as BA.5 rages through the population — get ready to enjoy some quality time alone in a room.
Let’s hope no other country is taking Canada’s lead on setting COVID policies.