TORONTO — While things are looking up for the travel industry, the challenges are still very real.
For airlines, the many challenges include making adjustments to winter sun programs for 2021-2022 in a very unpredictable market.
And for travel agents? Along with everything else they have to do, they have to break the news to clients that routes for very long-awaited vacations have been cancelled. And then the rebooking process starts all over again.
It’s one of the many, many frustrations from this 15-month long (and counting) unprecedented pandemic situation.
Faith Sproule, owner, Niche Travel Group in Nova Scotia, says her agency has been selling into Transat’s Halifax departures to Montego Bay, Puerto Plata, Varadero and Santa Clara for winter 2022 getaways. Last week came word that the routes have been cancelled.
“These are 2022 destinations that have been available, and we have been selling them … so many groups were rebooked for 2022 and are now cancelled again,” said Sproule. “We have to reprotect guests yet again that were already booked for 2022, this is the third time for some of them.”
She added: “I think our Atlantic market was about to boom and these flights would have all sold out, we have been very busy booking 2022 vacations.”
The cancellation of the Montego Bay flight was particularly tough, says Sproule. “Losing our Montego Bay flight is devastating. It is our top selling destination and we booked hundreds of seats on that direct Transat flight every year, so much so that little ole Niche Travel Group was in the top 10 in the world for sales to Jamaica at the JTB Awards. The Transat flight was our only direct option to book Sandals and Beaches packages and as a Preferred Sandals Agency this was a real hit.”
She adds: “Jamaica was our only direct option to the English Caribbean, and most luxury guests feel that you can’t replace Jamaica with a Spanish-speaking option. It is a sad day!”
This isn’t the first, and there will no doubt be more, route cancellations in the industry as this second unprecedented year unfolds, as airlines make decisions based purely on solvency and survival.
But that doesn’t make it any easier, on either side.
“Due to the uncertainty surrounding the extension of travel restrictions, both in Canada and at our destinations, we unfortunately had to revise our 2021-2022 winter flight schedule 2022 and reduce overall capacity,” Transat spokesperson Marie-Christine Pouliot told Travelweek.
“The routes you mention have indeed been impacted by these changes and affected passengers are eligible for a full refund. We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused,” said Pouliot.
Transat’s program from Halifax for winter 2021 – 2022 includes Cayo Coco and Holguin, Ft. Lauderdale and Orlando, Cancun and Punta Cana.