Air Canada says it has improved its service levels through the summer, reducing wait times and cancellations and bringing its baggage mishandling rate back to 2019 levels.
The Montreal-based airline provided an update on Wednesday on the operational improvement initiatives that have been underway as the company grapples with numerous challenges in the post-pandemic recovery.
Air Canada says that from the week of June 27 to the week of August 8, it saw the strongest improvement in baggage handling. While the company did not disclose its baggage mishandling rate, it says that the rate during the week of June 27 was 2.5 times the rate in 2019, before the pandemic hit. As of Aug. 8, Air Canada says the rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels, with a baggage handling success rate of 98 per cent.
The airline has also experienced a reduction in flight delays of more than one hour between, with 1,160 fewer flights per week facing longer delays. Air Canada also says delays are getting shorter, with the average arrival delay improving from 28 minutes longer than 2019 levels in the week of June 27, to 12 minutes longer than 2019 levels in the week of Aug. 8.
The number of flights cancelled fell 77 per cent between June 27 and Aug. 8. The airline's flight completion rate reached 96.7 per cent, less than one percentage point lower than in the same week in 2019.
"We know how much our customers value travel and their reliance on us to transport them safely, comfortably and without disruption. This is always our goal and we share with them their disappointment that, coming out of the pandemic, the global industry faltered due to the unprecedented challenges of restarting after a two-year, virtual shutdown," Air Canada chief executive Michael Rousseau said in a statement on Wednesday.
"While I am very satisfied with the progress to date... we all continue to work hard on behalf of our customers to complete our recovery."
Air Canada says it currently operates an average of nearly 1,100 flights per day and it will operate 79 per cent of its pre-pandemic schedule through the summer. It now employs 34,000 workers, slightly below the 34,700 that were on staff before the pandemic.
Despite the improvements, Air Canada's stock was trading down nearly 2 per cent on the Toronto Stock Exchange as of 1 p.m. ET.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Walter Spracklin says the improvements are a key positive for the airline, and reinforce that "the worst is behind them in terms of travel disruptions."
"Taken together, these improvements should offer greater confidence to Air Canada's customer base," Spracklin said.
"Looking ahead, we hope to see capacity growth as the system gains resilience from the summer travel boom."
Air Canada apologized to customers earlier this month for the operational instability seen in the post-pandemic ramp-up that came after travel demand surged for the first time in more than two years. The increase in demand strained the global air transport system and resulted in challenges for Air Canada and chaos at some of the country's biggest airports.
The airline had pointed to challenges throughout the system as a key source of the issues, including resource challenges that impacted airport security screening, Canada and U.S. border customs processing, air traffic control, maintenance providers, equipment, supply chain, aircraft catering and fuelling partners. Air Canada also says a series of mechanical failures at airport baggage handling systems contributed to ongoing issues.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.