Canada’s major airlines will maintain a financial hit due to Hurricane Irma, but the crucial question they confront is how soon vacation spots which are hugely popular with snow-bound Canadians will recover from water and wind damage.
Some islands which have been ravaged are anticipating another onslaught in the kind of Hurricane Jose, which is closing in on them as people have hardly started picking up the pieces after the battering they took out of Irma, which has Florida square in its sights.
That double blow and just how much damage it causes will establish the medium-term effect on the airlines.
“The bigger concern for some of the leisure branches of those carriers — Transat, Air Canada Vacations, WestJet Vacations, Sunwing — is: What will the state of the tourism infrastructure be after Irma goes,” said airline industry consultant Robert Kokonis, president of AirTrav Inc. “It is going to be bad news for [some of] those islands for the better part of a year or longer.”
Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing Vacations and WestJet Airlines Ltd. delivered empty airplanes to Caribbean islands earlier in the week to bring back travelers in the path of Irma, and have turned their attention to Florida.
Air Transat and WestJet Airlines Ltd., stopped all flights to Florida this weekend as Irma barrelled toward the Sunshine State. Air Canada said on its site that flights between Toronto and Miami, Toronto and Fort Lauderdale and Montreal and Fort Lauderdale were cancelled Friday through Monday, and additional late on Friday that it is monitoring the situation at other Florida airports like Orlando and Fort Myers.
Florida ports that handle cargo and cruise ships, such as Miami, Port Everglades and Freeport, were closed to boats on Friday.
The majority of the other ports were shut down or anticipated to close by Saturday.
Container ship firm Maersk Line stated 10 boats were postponed as of Friday morning and the arrivals of the following four might be postponed. Ships which can’t call at a port could sail into another one or wait out the storm in safe waters until vents burst to dock and unload, Katherine Mosquera, a Maersk spokeswoman, said by telephone.
“It is a port authority decision, in addition to working with the U.S. Coast Guard,” Ms. Mosquera said.
All passenger cruises from Florida were cancelled on Friday, and voyages in the upcoming few days are either cancelled or postponed. The cruise operators, such as Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, stated they had been shortening or rerouting following week’s excursions because of doubt over the state of ports in the area, such as the Caribbean islands influenced by Irma.
WestJet, which cancelled 45 flights to the Caribbean and Florida starting Sept. 6, has started assessing with its people on the ground in Antigua, the Dominican Republic and elsewhere to be sure they and their families are fine and to begin assessing damage to airports, hotels and other infrastructure, Tim Croyle, vice-president of WestJet Vacations, stated on Friday from Calgary.
“We’re now going through the process of calling all our hotels, knowing how did they fare, are they safe, what condition are they in, are they prepared to get guests,” Mr. Croyle said. “Through all that, we make an assessment of: can you safely land a plane, is your destination prepared and safe to get guests and revive normal operations?”
Antigua fared better than anticipated, as did the Dominican Republic, he said, but Saint Martin has severe harm.
WestJet delivered a Boeing 737 to Antigua on Friday in what’s called a rescue flight, an unscheduled plane which goes out vacant and takes travellers from a danger zone. It took off to return to Toronto during a brief window in V.C. Bird International Airport before it closed in anticipation of Hurricane Jose blowing by Antigua and Barbuda on Saturday.
The carrier began viewing Irma on Aug. 30 at its operations center in Calgary, which tracks and manages the movement of aircraft 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
Sending empty planes to bring people home is an important cost for airlines. 1 senior industry executive estimated that the hourly cost of running an Airbus A320 at $10,500, including gasoline, no revenue is generated if it’s empty. Airlines also will need to pay refunds to customers who do not need to fly at a later date or receive a credit for a future flight.
Preventing rescue flights caused a ripple effect on other WestJet flights since the airline should use crews and planes which are typically already scheduled.
“We have got to source the plane from somewhere, which necessarily means cancelling someone else’s flight,” Mr. Croyle said. “It creates more disruption in the remainder of the network to supply those aircraft.”
Air Canada has cancelled all flights into Cuba through Sunday, and also to the Bahamas through noon on Monday, spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said. The airport in Turks and Caicos is closed through Monday, so a Toronto-Turks and Caicos flight scheduled for Sunday was cancelled.
Courtesy: The Globe And Mail