Montreal-based airline Air Transat is planning to start flying again on July 23, after a hiatus of almost four months because of COVID-19.
The airline says it is planning to slowly return to normal, offering flights to 23 destinations across Europe, the Caribbean, the U.S. and Canada starting on that date.
“This is a first step towards getting healthy operations back on track, from both a business and financial perspective,” CEO Jean-Marc Eustache said.
While the move represents the airline’s first tentative steps at getting back to normal, it’s clear it won’t be business as usual.
Transat’s network of travel agencies will be adhering to physical distancing requirements by limiting appointments to one customer at a time, and Plexiglas partitions will be installed at travel agents’ desks.
While checking in at the airport, passengers will be asked health-related questions, and counters and self-service kiosks will be regularly disinfected.
And on board, all passengers will be provided with a mask, gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.
In addition, heavily touched areas will be thoroughly cleaned with hospital-grade disinfectant before each flight, and the aircraft will be thoroughly cleaned with electrostatic disinfectant every 24 hours.
The move to reopen comes as the airline announced it lost $179 million in the three-month period up to the end of April. In the same period last year, Transat lost $939,000.
Update on Air Canada takeover
It also comes as the process of Transat being taken over by Air Canada continues at a glacial pace.
Last summer, Transat’s shareholders approved a takeover offer that would see the company bought out by Air Canada for $720 million. But the deal still needs the approval of regulatory authorities in Canada and Europe that will need to be assured the transaction doesn’t lessen competition.
The deal was also struck before COVID-19 hit, and it’s clear the pandemic has changed the outlook for the industry.
“The market conditions of the global industry have been completely transformed,” Transat said Thursday. “While the corporation remains firmly committed to completing the transaction with Air Canada, certain factors beyond its control and related to the COVID-19 pandemic could influence the outcome of the proposed arrangement.”
In particular, Transat said the current situation could require it to incur new debt, something that technically goes against the rules of the deal it struck with Air Canada. And Transat also said the new financial reality could make it hard to implement whatever changes regulators ask it to do as part of their investigations.
But if everything goes according to plan, Transat said it expects the takeover to be finalized by the end of this year.