Air Canada is cutting capacity by 25% in the first quarter of the year in the face of Covid travel restrictions.

At least 1,700 jobs will be lost as a direct results of the schedule being pared back.

Canada’s largest carrier’s capacity in the first three months of 2021 will be just 20% of the level operated in the first quarter of 2019.

The route network will continue to be evaluated and adjusted as required “in response to the trajectory of the pandemic, government-imposed travel restrictions and quarantines and to market and regulatory conditions”.

Affected customers on all routes will be offered options, including refunds and alternative routes where available, the airline announced.

Chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette said: “Since the implementation by the federal and provincial governments of these increased travel restrictions and other measures, in addition to the existing quarantine requirements, we have seen an immediate impact to our close-in bookings and have made the difficult but necessary decision to further adjust our schedule and rationalise our trans-border, Caribbean and domestic routes to better reflect expected demand and to reduce cash burn.

“We regret the impact these difficult decisions will have on our employees who have worked very hard during the pandemic looking after our customers, as well as on the affected communities.

“While this is not the news we were hoping to announce this early into the year, we are nonetheless encouraged that Health Canada has already approved two vaccines and that the government of Canada expects the vast majority of eligible Canadians to be vaccinated by September.

“We look forward to seeing our business start to return to normal and to bringing back some of our more than 20,000 employees currently on furlough and lay-off.”