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Mar 18, 2020

'Unprecedented situation': Air Transat to gradually halt flights until April 30

Analysts resort to 'educated guesses' as airlines suspend flights

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Air Transat plans to gradually suspend its flights until the end of next month, the company said Wednesday, as new border restrictions are set to take effect.  

Transat A.T. Inc. said it will suspend sales for departures until April 30 to and from most European and U.S. destinations effective immediately.

However, the company plans to operate repatriation flights over the next two weeks and as a result, sales for trips between Montreal and Paris and Lisbon; as well, flights between Toronto and London and Lisbon will remain open temporarily.  

Sales for flights to the Caribbean and Mexico will also be halted immediately, but flights will continue for a few more days in order to repatriate Canadians.

In an email to BNN Bloomberg, Transat spokesperson Christophe Hennebelle said the airline has “some tens of thousands of passengers” to bring home.

The airline is advising its Canadian customers who were scheduled to depart in the coming days to postpone their trip, and says customers whose flights are cancelled will receive a credit for future travel.

"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," Transat President and Chief Executive Officer Jean-Marc Eustache said in the release.  

"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 back home."

The company said as part of its cost-cutting measures, there will be temporary layoffs in the coming days and senior executives will also take pay cuts.

Hennebelle told BNN Bloomberg the layoffs will affect “a significant part” of Transat’s workforce, but declined to give a specific number as employees are currently being notified.

The spokesperson added that despite the market rout and flight suspensions, the carrier still expects Air Canada’s acquisition of Transat to close in the second quarter of this year.

The federal government’s restrictions on foreign nationals entering Canada, with the exception of U.S. citizens, will take effect Wednesday at 12 p.m. ET.​

-- Files from BNN Bloomberg's Paige Ellis