If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
TORONTO — Sunwing Airlines has made the difficult decision to layoff all of its flight and cabin crew members as it temporarily suspends all operations after completing repatriation flights to bring home more than 100,000 passengers in destination.
Sunwing is thanking its travel partners for their support during these exceptionally challenging times for the travel industry.
Deana Murphy, Sunwing’s VP of Sales, says: “The health and well-being of our customers and employees is of top priority and as a result, we have had to make some extremely difficult decisions.
“We would like to thank all our travel partners for their incredible support and understanding during this time. We understand that these measures will put a financial strain on our travel partners. We encourage agents to seek assistance from the government to cover any losses incurred during this unprecedented time in our industry.”
Murphy adds: “We all hope that normal operations will resume as soon as possible so we can continue to help make customers vacation dreams come true together. As an industry, we will get through this and emerge stronger than ever.”
Sunwing had already announced the suspension of all southbound flights March 17 – April 9 to focus on bringing its passengers home in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The federal government’s March 11 global travel advisory against non-essential travel for all Canadians, coupled with a directive issued March 13 for Canadians to return home as borders around the world close, has seen all of Canada’s carriers and airlines around the world repatriating travellers.
The never-before-seen turn of events has been devastating for the travel industry and airlines in particular.
“This unprecedented situation has had a drastic impact on our business during a short space of time,” says Mark Williams, President, Sunwing Airlines.
“While we have communicated a temporary suspension of our southbound flights up until April 10th, at this time we cannot confirm when commercial southern flight operations will resume.
“That is why Sunwing was forced to communicate layoffs to our flight and cabin crew members yesterday evening. Our pilots and flight attendants play a crucial role in our operations and this was not a decision that we took lightly.
“Once we have confirmation on a return to service date of our southbound flights, we fully intend to recall our flight and cabin crew members. These are incredibly difficult decisions to make. But the circumstances we face are dire and we must take action to ensure the long-term viability of our business.”
By day’s end yesterday Sunwing had flown home some 11,000 passengers to Canada. The company said it is committed to ensuring all its guests are brought safely home. Sunwing says customers are returning home on their scheduled flights, with any remaining seats being used to accommodate other Sunwing customers wanting to return earlier at no additional cost.
Sunwing Experiences representatives are situated in resorts across the travel company’s destinations and are available 24/7 to support customers during this time.
“Given the severe impact COVID-19 has had on our business, and the efforts we are putting in place to bring thousands of Canadians home, we are actively seeking government support,” said Williams.
“As an organization, we have never sought government support previously. But these are exceptional circumstances. Our customers need us and we’re doing everything we can to support them.”
Transat has also announced a gradual suspension of operations, effective until April 30. Like Sunwing Airlines, it will first complete its repatriation flights.
Transat says sales for departures until April 30 are suspended immediately from and to most destinations in Europe and the U.S.
Transat’s repatriation flights will operate for the next two weeks. To allow as many repatriations as possible, Transat says sales will remain open in both directions between Montreal and Paris and Lisbon and between Toronto and Paris and Lisbon.
Sales for flights and packages to the Caribbean and Mexico have also been suspended immediately.
Passengers with domestic flights are asked to check the flight status.
Transat says a date for a full halt to its operations will be announced soon.
All passengers who were unable to travel because their flight is cancelled will receive a credit for future travel to be used within 24 months of their original travel date.
Jean-Marc Eustache, Transat’s President and CEO says: “This is an unprecedented situation, beyond our control, which is forcing us to briefly suspend all of our flights to contribute to the effort to fight the pandemic, protect our customers and employees and safeguard the company.”
Eustache adds: “We are doing everything we can so that this has as little impact as possible on our employees and customers whom we make sure to bring home.”
Transat will also be reducing staffing and implementing temporary layoffs and reduction of work time or salary for a significant number of employees, he added. Transat’s senior executives and board members are also taking pay cuts.