In the air tonight: Air Canada offers rock-star comfort – and social distancing – with 'Covid class'
With passengers nervous about commercial aviation in the age of coronavirus, the Canadian airline is deploying special A319 aircraft fitted with only 58 seats on commuter air routes
The “Jetz” fleet carriers barely one-third of the maximum 156 capacity, and less than half the typical Air Canada configuration.
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The Canadian airline has a fleet of three bespoke jets that normally charters out to sports teams, touring rock artistes and industry. Besides ageing British rockers, the planes have be used by Bruce Springsteen, U2 and the Spice Girls.
They also fly the Toronto Maple Leafs ice hockey team to away fixtures, as well as the Alberta rivals of the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames.
But starting on Monday 1 June, the A319s will be flying normal scheduled services – operating peak-time flights on Air Canada’s key business routes connecting Toronto with both Ottawa and Montreal.
The configuration has been dubbed “Covid class”. Passengers will have little time to appreciate it, with a journey time of an hour from Toronto to Ottawa (226 miles away) and 74 minutes to Montreal (316 miles).
The airline says: “While our favourite sports teams are on hiatus, we’re bringing our special fleet of Air Canada Jetz Airbus A319 aircraft to you.”
At the airport, travellers will be able to avoid too much contact with other passengers thanks to a “prime gate location,” reducing walking distances, and with boarding beginning only 25 minutes before departure.
On board, there are two seats rather than three on either side of the aisle, and the “seat pitch” is up to 49 inches – giving much more space than a normal flight.
Fares researched by The Independent show the premium compared with normal business class on the routes is C$91 (£54) each way.
Air Canada was the first major carrier to impose a comprehensive range of measures to try to reduce risk.
Passengers are not allowed to travel without submitting to a temperature check. They must also wear face coverings while passing through the airport and on board.
The Canadian airline is set to halve its workforce, costing around 20,000 jobs.
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