Air Transat, Porter cancel flights as airline stocks get pummelled

Paris / France - April 24, 2015: Air Transat Airbus A330-200 C-GTSN passenger plane departure and take off at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

Canadian airlines continued to suspend service on Wednesday as Canada and the United States close their shared border to non-essential travel, sending stocks plummeting.

Air Canada’s stock fell as much as 42 per cent on Wednesday after the government extended the travel ban in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Shares of Canada’s largest airline recovered somewhat, but still closed trading on Wednesday down nearly 20 per cent at $12.90.

On Wednesday, Air Transat and Porter Airlines joined the growing list of carriers announcing wide-sweeping cancellations as governments continue to introduce travel restrictions and travellers stay home. WestJet Airlines announced on Monday that it would suspend sales of all international and transborder flights for 30 days beginning Sunday. WestJet’s domestic schedule is also being cut in half.

Transat, the third largest carrier in the country, announced Wednesday that it will gradually suspend service through to April 30, halting most international flights and transborder ones to the United States. Transat shares fell 2 per cent on Wednesday, closing at $5.88. The company’s stock is now 67 per cent lower than the share price Air Canada offered to takeover the airline.

The company said it will operate “repatriation flights” for the next two weeks in order to bring Transat customers home from abroad. Sales will remain temporarily open for flights from Montreal to Paris and to Lisbon, and between Toronto and London and Lisbon, as the air carrier brings travellers back to Canada.

Transat also announced that it will begin laying off employees as well as reducing both the work hours and salary that will affect “a significant portion of our employees.”

“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 chief executive Jean-Marc Eustache said in a statement.

"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."

Porter Airlines also announced Wednesday that it would suspend all flights starting Friday through until June 1. The private airline said it will operate until Friday “to ensure all customers have an opportunity to complete trips or make last-minute travel arrangements.” All change and cancellation fees have been waived.

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