Saturday,  April 4, 2020  5:39 am

Air Canada brings home 444 Canadians from Morocco; two more rescue flights planned


Air Canada brings home 444 Canadians from Morocco; two more rescue flights planned
The crew of flight #AC2003 that helped bring 444 Canadians home from Morocco. (Image: Air Canada)
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

Air Canada will operate two more flights from Morocco after successfully flying home 444 Canadians on Saturday (March 21st).

The flights, organized in collaboration with the Canadian Government, are part of a company-wide mission to help Canadians who are stuck in destinations after the global COVID-19 pandemic forced emergency airport and border closures.   

"We are working extremely hard 24/7 to bring thousands of Canadians home safely from around the world and we will continue to do so. Our priority at this time is to ensure that we can repatriate as many people as possible. Both on our own and with the Government of Canada and foreign authorities, we are working to organize these massively complex operations in the current global crisis,” said Colin Rovinescu, president and CEO at Air Canada, in a release. 

In the last week, Air Canada has transported more than 200,000 Canadians back home. (Air Canada)

Air Canada’s first flight, AC2003, departed from Casablanca and landed in Montreal at Pierre Trudeau Airport in Dorval on Saturday night.

Two additional flights are currently scheduled to operate on March 23rd and 25th, also from Casablanca to Montreal, on a 450-seat wide-body aircraft.

Global Affairs Canada is coordinating local arrangements for Canadians wishing to return home on these special flights.

"...an unprecedented crisis..."

Morocco suspended all international flights out of the country just recently.

The country has seen 74 confirmed cases and three deaths as of March 21st, according to the World Health Organization.

Canadians abroad are encouraged to register with Global Affairs Canada as this will allow the Government of Canada to provide information to them as soon as it becomes available. Those in need of assistance are urged to contact sos@international.gc.ca.

"The COVID 19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis in the global aviation industry that is already having a significant impact on the air transport industry, travellers, shippers and the economy. Right now, our priority is to help Canadians who are abroad to return to Canada. The Government of Canada is working with Air Canada to bring Canadians home from locations that are particularly challenging. I am pleased to see these flights beginning this weekend," the Hon. Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport, stated in a release.

The federal government has unveiled a program where loans of $5,000 per person are available to Canadians that are stranded overseas. These funds can be used for flights and accommodations.

READ MORE: PM urges Canadians to "make choices that will save lives;" financial aid available to citizens abroad

In the last week, Air Canada has transported more than 200,000 Canadians back home through its regularly scheduled operations across its international and U.S. network.

The airline, which will gradually begin to suspend its normal operations, plans to operate more than 300 flights until the end of March from international destinations and more than 850 from the U.S., to enable hundreds of thousands more Canadians to return home.

"Ensuring the health and safety of Canadians, both at home and abroad, is our top priority. We continue to work around the clock to provide all assistance possible to Canadians abroad who are affected by COVID-19. As part of these efforts, we are collaborating with Air Canada to facilitate commercial flights for Canadians who want to return home," the Hon. François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated.

On Saturday night, Champagne tweeted that Canada is working with airlines to organize repatriation from Peru, Spain, and Morocco.

“We are working with Canadian airlines to have commercial flights in coming days to bring Canadians home in these countries,” the Minister tweeted.

WestJet also announced on Twitter that it has 34 repatriation flights planned to bring home Canadians from around the world between March 23rd and 25th.


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