Dividing the skies

Air Canada and WestJet have been cutting domestic flight routes in recent months, a move that one business group thinks is fishier than an in-flight meal.

What happened: Air Canada will no longer offer service between Saskatchewan and Calgary, triggering an official complaint by the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce. The group has asked the Competition Bureau to determine if Air Canada and WestJet violated anti-competition laws by agreeing to divide and conquer Canada’s air travel market. 

  • WestJet has cut services in Québec and the Maritimes in favour of the West, while Air Canada is shifting focus to its main hubs of Toronto, Vancouver, and Montréal.
  • Both Air Canada and WestJet have denied accusations that they’re in cahoots, with the airlines emphasizing their decisions were simply prudent business practices. 

Why it matters: Canadians are uniquely vulnerable to the ebbs and flows of air travel due to vast distances between major cities. Route changes can seriously disrupt travel and how much it costs—problems exacerbated by the country’s reliance on a handful of carriers.  

Zoom out: Canada’s air travel industry is under fire after a chaotic holiday travel season resulted in calls to strengthen passenger protection laws. Meanwhile, challenger budget airlines, which are supposed to drive down prices, are struggling to prove their reliability.