Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. The airline says it has to cut 1,700 jobs and reduce capacity by 25 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 due to the pandemic. (Nathan Denette/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Air Canada to cut 1,700 jobs, reduce capacity by 25%

Air Canada, Canada’s largest air carrier, said Wednesday that it has to cut 1,700 jobs as pandemic travel restrictions force it to further cut capacity by 25 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

The reduction in capacity will also affect 200 employees of its Express carriers, the airline said in a press release.

Lucie Guillemette, executive vice president and CCO at Air Canada, said travel restrictions initiated by the federal and provincial governments to curb the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have resulted in a significant drop in bookings.

“We regret the impact these difficult decisions will have on our employees who have worked very hard during the pandemic looking after our customers, as well as on the affected communities,” Guillemette said in a statement.

“While this is not the news we were hoping to announce this early into the year, we are nonetheless encouraged that Health Canada has already approved two vaccines and that the Government of Canada expects the vast majority of eligible Canadians to be vaccinated by September.”

The airline has had to furlough or lay off more than 20,000 employees because of the impact of the pandemic, Guillemette said.

With the latest reduction, Air Canada’s capacity in the first quarter of 2021 will be about 20 per cent of its capacity during the first quarter of 2019, the airline said.

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