Air Canada anticipates return of worldwide air travel by Christmas

News from CBC News – link to story

Airlines changing cleaning process and working to educate public about safety measures

Ashley Burke · CBC News · Posted: Apr 30, 2020

An Air Canada VP predicts Canada’s airline industry could reopen worldwide by the end of the year. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

An Air Canada vice president suggests that by the time winter holidays roll around again, Canadians will be able to board his company’s planes and fly almost anywhere in the world.

But Tim Strauss said he knows that one of the biggest tasks involved in bringing air travel back to life after pandemic restrictions lift will be convincing the public it’s safe to fly.

“I think by Christmas you will see a significant amount of flying again,” said Strauss, vice president of cargo at Air Canada. “We’ll be flying to most places around the world and certainly domestically.”

There may be fewer flights available and more connections than travellers are used to, he added.

The airline industry has been hammered by the pandemic. Some Canadian airlines have stopped flying entirely while others, including Air Canada, have scaled back more than 90 per cent due to the dramatic drop in demand. 

At a virtual Canadian Club Toronto event today, executives at several major airlines talked about what the North American airline industry could look like post-pandemic. Air Canada, Sunwing and American Airlines said corporate conversations about post-pandemic operations are focused on making sure planes are kept clean. Some airlines are changing how often they sanitize their planes and are even considering changes to how air is circulated in passenger cabins.

‘We are rolling out completely new procedures’

“That is the absolute centre focus of almost all of our product discussions at this point,” said Strauss, regarding cleanliness. “The whole industry will be working in tandem with one another to make sure it’s good no matter what airplane you’re on, anywhere in the world.”

American Airlines said that, as it learned more about COVID-19 over the past two months, it overhauled its cleaning process and now considers it a key part of ensuring a plane is safe to fly.

“We’re rolling out completely new procedures that are disinfecting all parts of the aircraft that a customer touches before every flight,” said Jim Butler, senior vice president of airport operations and cargo at American Airlines. “Before this, while that disinfection happened, it tended to happen more overnight.”

His airline is boosting its cleaning staff while looking for ways to make boarding more efficient, so that flights aren’t delayed by cleaning.

The airline also has been handing out personal protective equipment to all its customers and limiting the number of people onboard by blocking off the centre seats. Butler said the most difficult part will be educating the public about the measures being taken.

People check in at an Air Canada ticketing kiosk at Pearson International Airport. Transport Canada has made it mandatory for travellers to wear masks on planes and in airports when physical distancing isn’t possible. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

‘We’re modelling so many different scenarios right now’

“You have to make sure the customer is safe and … that they feel safe. Both of those are equally important,” he said. 

In Canada, Transport Canada has made it mandatory for all passengers to wear masks while onboard and in airports when they cannot physically distance two metres from others.

Sunwing’s president Mark Williams said the industry doesn’t know how soon the pandemic might end, or how quickly customers might come back.

“We’re modelling so many different scenarios right now because we don’t know what the future holds,” he said. 

Williams said that when the industry revives, it will have to convince  Canadians that all aspects of air travel are safe — including getting to the airport, checking in and going through security screening.

“People have to be aware of the safety,” said Williams. “I’m not sure that leaving an empty seat between two people on an airplane is really going to have a significant impact on how safe you are onboard a plane from getting a virus. 

“I think there’s other steps that we need to take. People need to understand what they are and what the risks are, to get them back to flying.”

No point in travelling unless countries are open for business

Air Canada also is looking at how air is circulated onboard its planes.

“That’s one of the things we need to adjust to make the flight safer,” said Strauss. 

The World Health Organization cites research showing there’s very little risk of communicable diseases being shared in-flight through a plane’s ventilation system. The plane’s cabins use filters which trap virus particles, according to the WHO’s website.

While Air Canada predicts better times for the industry by Christmas, Helen Becker, an airline analyst at Cowen and Company, points out that other countries will need to lift their pandemic restrictions and reopen their economies first, in order to convince people to travel.

“You can’t go to London and quarantine for 14 days,” said Becker. “If your vacation was going to be a long weekend and you go, it doesn’t work.

“We need to get all these governments on the same page to kind of open things up. Everyone wants it to be done safely because no one wants the recurrence of cases.”

Strauss said there are signs the economy is about to turn around. Manufacturers are moving parts around the world on Air Canada’s cargo flights, he said, and his company is getting ready to transport retail goods from clothing manufacturers to North America.

“These are companies that only make these moves when they think there’s an economy coming back,” she said. “That makes me very optimistic, that we are at the beginning steps of a rebound.”

WestJet saves 1,000 pilot jobs through ALPA agreements

From WestJet

CALGARY, April 30, 2020 /CNW/ – Today, WestJet announced it has reached an agreement with the Airline Pilot Association (ALPA), to save more than 1,000 pilot jobs at WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The airline had previously confirmed that 1,700 pilots across WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop had received layoff notifications, effective either May 1 or June 1, 2020. 

“I’m pleased that ALPA and WestJet, through robust negotiations and collaboration have come together to minimize the impact of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic on our pilot groups,” said Jeff Martin, WestJet Executive Vice-President, and Chief Operating Officer. “We thank ALPA for the joint effort in working with us to assist our airline in remaining flexible and competitive. Our pilots will be a critical element of our recovery and retaining these important roles leaves us better positioned to recover strongly and return WestJet to a global airline.” 

Said ALPA MEC Chair, representing WestJet and Swoop, Captain Dave Colquhoun, “The agreement we have reached is due to the dedication of the WestJet executive and the WestJet pilots, in a time where everyone is making sacrifices to protect our airline.  ALPA’s elected leadership appreciates the time and effort that was involved in working together to minimize the impact to our members and we look forward to the time when all of our pilots, and many of the other WestJetters who are casualties of this crisis, are back to work at WestJet.” 

Said ALPA MEC Chair, representing WestJet Encore, Captain Ryan Leier, “On behalf of WestJet Encore pilots, I am pleased we were able to successfully reach an agreement. We recognize that these are uncharted skies as we deal with the effects of COVID-19 and this agreement will help our pilots and the airline get through this together.” 

The agreement allows the WestJet Group of Companies to retain pilots across the three groups, through the amendment of terms to the current agreements.  

WestJet continues to work collaboratively with its employee and labour groups as well as all levels of government to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 crisis to the airline and its employees.  

WestJet is utilizing the Government of Canada’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to assist in navigating this pandemic while work is not available due to the downturn in demand for air travel. Where it is of benefit to the employee, WestJet will use CEWS to keep the inactive employee on the payroll to ensure they remain connected to the company. 

ALPA will communicate specific details to WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop Pilots and WestJet will not be providing further information. 

Canadian North Schedule Update

From Canadian North

Effective: 24 April 2020 – Link to full Schedule

FromToWeekly Frequency
Rankin InletWinnipeg6
WinnipegRankin Inlet6
KuujjuaqMontreal (Dorval)4
Montreal (Dorval)Kuujjuaq4
Arctic BayIqaluit3
Arctic BayResolute3
IqaluitArctic Bay3
OttawaArctic Bay3
ResoluteArctic Bay3
Arctic BayOttawa2
Cambridge BayEdmonton2
Cambridge BayGjoa Haven2
Cambridge BayKugaaruk2
Cambridge BayTaloyoak2
Cambridge BayYellowknife2
EdmontonCambridge Bay2
EdmontonFort Simpson2
EdmontonGjoa Haven2
EdmontonNorman Wells2
Fort SimpsonFort Simpson2
Fort SimpsonHay River2
Grise FiordResolute2
Hay RiverEdmonton2
Hay RiverYellowknife2

Link to Canadian North Update including:

Airports hammered by COVID struggle to survive; $2B in losses predicted

News from CTV News – link to story

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press Staff ~ Published Thursday, April 30, 2020

Toronto Pearson International Airport

People carry luggage at Pearson International Airport in Toronto in this file photo dated Dec. 20, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

TORONTO — Clobbered by anti-pandemic measures that have stifled travel and grounded much of the world’s commercial aviation, Canada’s airports are predicting around $2 billion in lost revenues this year.

The isolation of would-be travellers, border closures and flight cancellations have led to a precipitous decline in demand for plane tickets and, by extension, airport services.

“Our airports have seen traffic and revenues plummet significantly — an average of about 90 per cent,” said Daniel-Robert Gooch, head of the Canadian Airports Council, which represents 100 airports. “Looking ahead to the end of the year, airports anticipate year-end revenues to be down about 55 per cent from where they would have been, even more at smaller airports.”

The bottom line, Gooch said, were anticipated losses of between $1.8 billion and $2.2 billion.

Globally, commercial air traffic shrunk 41 per cent below 2019 levels in the last two weeks of March alone, according to Canada, too, has been hit hard.

Emergency isolation measures, including the closure of the U.S.-Canada border and stay-home directives, brought the rush of normal air traffic to a crawl. At least six regional airports, from Saint John, N.B. to Prince Rupert B.C., have lost scheduled passenger service altogether.

At Canada’s largest airport, Toronto Pearson International, plummeting passenger traffic has left normally bustling, frenetic terminals looking like gleaming ghost towns. About 5,000 passengers are moving through the facility each day, down from a normal 130,000, the airport said.

Tori Gass, with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said the number of flights has dropped from an average of 1,300 per day to about 350.

“There are approximately nine passenger airlines operating at Pearson compared to 67 airlines that were operating previously,” Gass said.

Several Canadian carriers, such as Porter Airlines and Sunwing, stopped regular flights altogether. Larger carriers, such as Air Canada and WestJet, have been limping along on drastically curtailed passenger loads, waiting along with everyone else for the pandemic skies to clear. That’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

“We anticipate the recovery to be protracted — faster at larger hub airports than elsewhere in the system — with passenger traffic in 2020 at only about 60 per cent of 2019 levels,” Gooch said.

Canada’s airports generate about $19 billion for the country’s economy and employ 194,000 people.

The sharp traffic reduction has forced airports, normally major economic hubs in their own right, into cutting mode. Some, like Calgary and Edmonton, have partially closed terminals. The airport in Windsor, Ont., suspended all commercial flights. Other measures include cutting employee wages or hours, or outright layoffs.

On Thursday, for example, Vancouver’s airport authority, which employs about 500 people across operations, finance, engineering, human resources and other sectors, became the latest to offer staff voluntary layoffs.

Gooch said about a dozen municipal and territorial airports appeared to be ineligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which would allow others to avoid immediate layoffs. Either way, he said, airports were struggling to cover costs, with borrowing their way through the crisis only punting the problem down the road.

While freight traffic has risen, the increase has barely offset the losses.

“Cargo aircraft movements are a fraction of normal passenger aircraft movements at most airports, and cargo doesn’t pay airport improvement fees, park at the airport, shop in the stores or eat in the restaurants,” Gooch said.

The industry, Gooch said, was hoping the federal government — already a financial life-support system for millions of Canadians and businesses — will offer loan or bond guarantees along with interest-free loans repayable over a longer period.

Airports also want Ottawa to scrap ground rents to allow them to conserve cash, focus on operations, and pay off debt acquired during the pandemic. Smaller airports need funding for essential operating expenses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 30, 2020.

N.B. airports will lose millions this year

News from CBC News – link to story

Normal traffic won’t be back before 2022, caution some industry experts

Rachel Cave · CBC News · Posted: Apr 30, 2020

Airports across Canada are being cautioned to expect a slow recovery. (Submitted by Peter Sonnenber)

New Brunswick’s three largest airports are counting up their losses for 2020 and bracing for more lean years to follow. 

“We’ve seen a 94 per cent decrease in passenger traffic and a 15 per cent decrease in cargo,” said Moncton airport CEO Bernard Leblanc, who now expects revenue for the year to fall from $20 million to $8.5 million. 

“There’s no Air Canada activity and no Porter activity,” said Leblanc, “Sunwing and Air Transat, with their southern destinations, ceased all activities in the mid-March timeframe.”

As a result, Moncton took a hit at what should have been its busiest time. 

Normally, March and April combined would bring some 140-thousand passengers through the doors — most of them looking for holiday sun. 

Instead, Leblanc says the only service is WestJet, which comes five times a week from Toronto. 

The only way to reach New Brunswick by Air Canada, is to catch the one daily flight to Fredericton, where airport CEO Johanne Gallant says passenger traffic has fallen by 70 per cent. 

Meanwhile, she says she’s dealing with high fixed costs, such as runway maintenance, which has to be done to the same standard whether one plane is landing or ten. 

In Saint John, those fixed costs are running at least $400,000 per month, even though its arrivals and departures board is empty.  

CEO Derrick Stanford says no commercial flights means a projected $1.5 million surplus will probably turn into a $1.5 million deficit.  

“Seventy per cent of the airport’s revenues come from what’s called aeronautical revenues,” said Stanford.

The only way to reach New Brunswick by Air Canada is to catch the one daily flight to the Fredericton International Airport. (Fredericton International Airport)

“That’s passenger spending, whether it’s in the parking lot or the restaurant or the gift store, or what’s called passenger facility fees, which are part of every plane ticket that is sold.”

“So to have no passengers, pretty much equates to a minimum of at least a 70 per cent drop in revenues.”

Radio silence

Charter airline pilot Peter Sonnenberg says it’s unnerving to be in the cockpit and not hear pilot chatter. 

“I don’t think I’ve ever flown in this region and heard so little traffic on the radio and I’ve flown in this region my entire life,” said Sonnenberg in a call from Grand Manan. 

In more normal times, he says some of the demand to charter his Cessnas and Pipers would come from politicians and business executives who need to get to remote locations and don’t have time to spare. 

Peter Sonnenberg, CEO Atlantic Charters on Grand Manan, inside the cockpit of a plane with first officer Diana Dragomir, left. (Submitted by Peter Sonnenberg)

He says that’s not happening these days. Instead, he says he’s only taking off for medical calls, when patients need to get to hospitals on the mainland. 

Medavie says New Brunswick patients still need to be transported by air ambulance, although the cancellation of elective procedures has reduced demand. 

Still, between March 16 and April 25, there were 25 air transfers. 

It’s another reason why airports like Saint John have to stay open. 

No pillows, no blankets, no snacks, no bar

Audrey Gillespie says travelling by air these days feels different and sad. 

As an assistant supervisor for house-keeping and sanitization at a gold mine work camp in Nunavut, she’s an essential worker. 

Every month, she makes the epic journey from Fredericton to Meadowbank, via Montreal, Val d’Or, and Churchill, Man.

“The airports are empty,”she said. 

“You get on the plane and nobody sits beside each other. I think there were 11 people on the plane when I flew the last time.” 

Every month Audrey Gillespie travels from Fredericton to Meadowbank in Nunuvut via Montreal, Val d’Or, and Churchill, Man. for work. (Submitted by Audrey Gillespie)

“The flight attendant doesn’t come down the aisle with drinks or snacks or anything.”

“And a lot of flights are cancelled. You’re at work and your co-worker says ‘Is your flight still going?’ So you’re constantly checking that your flight hasn’t been cancelled, too.” 

“There’s a lot to it, and it’s very scary and when you get home, everything’s closed.”

Gillespie says when she gets home to Fredericton, she has to self-isolate, which means no visits to her son across the street, no hugs for her grandson. 

“You just have to respect the rules,” she said. 

She must also take her own mask or cloth face-covering and wear it in the airport and for the duration of her flights. 

When will traffic come back?

Airports across Canada are being cautioned to expect a slow recovery.

“I think most experts think the industry won’t get to pre-COVID levels before the end of 2021 so I think we’re looking at 2022,” said Angela Gittens from her home office in Montreal.

Angela Gittens, director general of Airports Council International, whose Canadian division represents the local airport authorities in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John.  (Submitted by Airports Council International)

Gittens is the director general for Airports Council International, whose Canadian division represents the local airport authorities in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John. 

“A lot will depend on how long the virus will last, how long the various restrictions will last and then how long, and how deep the recession will be,” said Gittens. 

“This is one of the reasons that we have asked governments to consider relief for airports, for airlines, and the entire aviation ecosystem.”

No plans to close N.B. airports

New Brunswick’s three airport authorities did apply to Ottawa for wage subsidies under the COVID–19 response program that ends in June.

All three CEOs said they’re also looking for ways to defer some capital spending — some projects can be suspended temporarily or scaled back. 

There’s no talk of closing any one airport. All three say they can survive until the end of the year. 

“The airport does have money in the bank and cash reserves for an emergency,” said Saint John’s Derrick Stanford. 

“We can weather the storm for several months but if we’re still having this conversation at Christmas time, I would say we’re looking at a dire situation, and we’d need some injection of money to remain viable.”

Police release person of interest photo in airplane arson at Buttonville Airport

News provided by Global News – link to story


York Regional Police have released a photo of a person of interest who they say may have information about a fire that broke out on a small airplane at Buttonville Airport back in February.

On Feb. 27, emergency crews were called to the airport, near Highway 404 and 16th Avenue in Markham, at around 11:30 p.m. for reports of a jet on fire.

When crews arrived they found a jet, classified as a Dassault Falcon 50 tri-jet, on fire outside of hanger 5, investigators said.

READ MORE: Fire destroys plane at Buttonville Airport, police calling it ‘suspicious’

At the time, police said there was a hole cut into a nearby fence and that the fire seemed suspicious as it appeared gasoline was used.

The Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office has since determined the fire was an arson.

Police said the plane had been parked at the airport for a few months.

A photo of the charred jet plane at Buttonville Airport in Markham, Ont.
 A photo of the charred jet plane at Buttonville Airport in Markham, Ont. Hando

No one was injured and nothing else was damaged, police said.

Investigators said after obtaining video surveillance, they are releasing a photo of a man “who is believed to have information that may assist in the investigation.”

Police are asking anyone who can identify him to contact investigators at 1-866-876-5423 ext. 7541, or  Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Police release this photo of a person of interest following an airplane fire at Buttonville Airport in Markham, Ont.
 Police release this photo of a person of interest following an airplane fire at Buttonville Airport in Markham, Ont. Handout / York Regional Police

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Lise Lapierre elected Chair of the YQB Board of Directors

From Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport

Québec City, April 22, 2020 – At its meeting on April 21, 2020, the Board of Directors of Québec City Jean Lesage International Airport (YQB) elected Lise Lapierre as its new Chair. Ms. Lapierre has been a director since 2012 and served as the Vice-Chair of the Board until her nomination. She succeeds Jean-Claude Labbé, who has chaired the Board for the past year and whose third and final term as director ended in 2020. 

“I intend to fulfil this important role with care, commitment, loyalty and pride in the trajectory that our organization has been taking for two decades now. At a time when COVID-19 rocks the airline industry, both domestically and internationally, I intend to work with the directors, our team and local driving forces to put Québec City’s airport in a good position to bounce back when the time comes,” stated Ms. Lapierre, who is the first woman to chair YQB’s Board of Directors. 

After a career in risk capital as an associate director at Accès Capital Québec, which specialized in financing Québec businesses, Lise Lapierre has moved to corporate governance and now sits on several boards of directors. She holds FCPA, FCA and ASC designations, has more than 20 years of experience in financing and investment and has successfully closed many investment transactions for companies in a variety of sectors. 

The outgoing Chair, Jean-Claude Labbé, is leaving the Board of Directors at the end of the three terms allowed by the governance rules. “As our company approaches its 20th anniversary, we can see how our airport has changed, developed and stepped fully into its role as a driver of economic development. We now have all the tools in place to shape our future,” stated Mr. Labbé, who has been on YQB’s Board of Directors since 2011. “2019 was a year of major changes for YQB, both physically and organizationally. I am proud to have helped this transition succeed. I know that our management team and Board of Directors will be able to handle the COVID-19 crisis well and continue developing YQB’s potential when the time comes.”

Hamilton International Airport Continues to Deliver Amid COVID-19 Pandemic

From John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport

HAMILTON, ON (April 20, 2020) – While facing the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a drastic decline in passenger travel experienced globally, John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport remains Canada’s largest domestic express cargo airport.  As a gateway for facilitating goods movements across Canada and around the globe, the Airport offers safe and secure facilities for its 24/7 operation while partnering with key cargo companies such as Cargojet, DHL, UPS, Amazon, Canada Post and Purolator.

Hamilton International and its partners continue to work safely together so goods and essential supplies can reach the people that need them.  With a growing demand for a variety of medical supplies and products needed during this crisis, air cargo shipments arriving from various international destinations into Canada are expedited thanks to an established express cargo operation at the Hamilton International Airport.

Since March 11, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, ecommerce and online sales in Canada have doubled.  According to a survey of more than 30,000 Canadians by market research firm Numerator, almost three in ten people are shopping for items online that they normally would have bought in-store.

Owing to these two key areas of growth over the past month, the Airport has generated a 10% increase in cargo activity compared to the previous month.  This marks a positive development in an otherwise challenging time for air travel globally.  Hamilton International is committed to supporting its passenger airline partners as they temporarily scale back operations, and during the recovery period to come.

“In this evolving and changing environment, we commend all our partners in the passenger and cargo sectors for their resilience and exceptional commitment to both their operations and their teams.  It is with great pride that we acknowledge the role that the Airport and its partners are playing during this crisis while supporting the supply chain for the City of Hamilton, Ontario and Canada” said Cathie Puckering, President and CEO, John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport.

Summarized here are recent activities:

On April 11, a B767 Cargojet flight landed in Hamilton from Shanghai (via Vancouver) with 75,000 pounds of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers in Canada. Cargojet was selected by the federal government to operate supply flights from China to bring additional supplies back to Canada.  Cargojet’s vast domestic network further connects the country from coast to coast and ensures goods are moving across Canada, including service into northern communities.

With goods arriving from over 220 countries around the world into DHL hubs in China, Germany and the US, Hamilton is an international gateway for DHL in Canada. As various countries that are in different stages of   COVID-19, the supply chains and movement of goods may be impacted.  One example is the re-opening of China challenged by aircraft availability to get stockpiles moving.  While global trade continues, dedicated cargo carriers like DHL are also playing an expanded role in moving goods that were previously being moved by passenger airlines. Key items being moved globally are essential goods such as pharmaceuticals, medical goods and hospital supplies.

The well recognized UPS courier is helping move critical medical supplies such as PPE destined for various locations.  With China being closed first due to COVID-19, cargo volumes stockpiled and now carriers like UPS are working hard to catch up with the movement of these international shipments.  The crisis also largely shut down the time-tested, brick-and-mortar retail model, yielding the spotlight to ecommerce. Now UPS is transforming to meet retailers’ digital needs in these disruptive times. 

The Government of Canada signed an agreement with Amazon Canada on March 29 to manage the distribution of medical equipment like masks, gloves and ventilators purchased by the Canadian government to help in its fight against the coronavirus outbreak.  Furthermore, the surge in online shopping has created longer than normal wait times for delivery as Amazon prioritized delivery of essential goods such as food, medicine, toilet paper and diapers ahead of non-essential orders.  Amazon customers in Canada accustomed to Prime service have seen delivery times up to one month away while Amazon works to meet the need to deliver critical supplies.

Canada Post and Purolator
Purolator, which is 91% owned by Canada Post, is an express carrier and has global supply chain capability to source goods from the U.S. and Asia. The Purolator team is working 24/7 to keep the supply chain moving and its facilities at Hamilton International play a significant role in the supply chain management in Southern Ontario.   Purolator was one of the companies that the federal government charged with the task of shipping half a million masks to hospitals across Canada.

Many invaluable frontline workers including those in the transportation and logistics sector should be most proud of the role they play during both the regular course of business and especially in critical moments like this.  “Efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 are unprecedented. The Airport is here to help, and our employees and partners are on the frontline to ensure trade continues through robust supply chain” continued Airport CEO Cathie Puckering., “We are very thankful to all Airport and cargo partner staff for their dedication to ensuring that critical cargo goods and supplies can reach the people that need them.”

Hamilton is one of the key gateways in North America for global goods movement, transportation and logistics.

John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport maintains strong links to 400 series highways/QEW, international trucking, the port and rail lines. #ThanksForDelivering

4 Pearson airport taxi and limousine drivers have died of COVID-19, drivers’ union says

News from CBC News – link to story

GTAA extends ‘deepest sympathies,’ says it will help drivers secure protective equipment

Nick Boisvert, Derick Deonarain · CBC News · Posted: Apr 29, 2020

The union representing airport taxi drivers says Pearson must introduce more thorough passenger screening and supply safety equipment for vehicles. (Toronto Pearson Airport)

At least four taxi and limousine drivers who work at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport have died of COVID-19, according to an industry union which is now calling for heightened safety measures inside vehicles.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates Pearson, acknowledged the deaths in a statement, but did not confirm how many drivers have died during the coronavirus outbreak. 

While it is not clear if the drivers contracted the novel coronavirus while on the job, the union representing drivers says its members are increasingly concerned about their safety when picking up passengers from the airport.

“Our members out there are very scared,” said Rajinder Aujla, president of the Airport Taxi Association, who said as many as 15 drivers have tested positive for the virus.

“It’s very hard to make six feet of distance in the car and they’re putting their lives at risk.”

Aujla says two taxi drivers and two limousine drivers died of COVID-19 from late March to early April. Another driver is believed to have passed on the virus to his father, who later died, Aujla added.

Limousine driver Kamal Dhami, 50, died of COVID-19 on March 26, his family confirmed to CBC News. 

Dhami worked for Airline Limousine.The family says he was the first driver to die of the disease.

Aujla says two more taxi drivers have died since mid-April, though the union has not yet confirmed their deaths were the result of COVID-19.

“We extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of the drivers who have passed away,” said GTAA spokesperson Tori Gass in an email.

Calls for more PPE, enhanced passenger screening

The Airport Taxi Association represents about 360 drivers, but Aujla says only 10 to 15 vehicles are still on the road due to the dramatic decline in air travel during the pandemic.

The GTAA has introduced several safety measures for the limousines still serving the airport, including disinfection of vehicles before each trip, the distribution of 6,000 disposable gloves to drivers and increased cleaning of high-traffic areas.

Drivers, however, say the enhancements are inadequate, and they are calling for stronger safety measures, including the installation of shields between drivers and passengers, and the distribution of more personal protective equipment.

The union is also calling on Pearson to thoroughly screen all passengers for COVID-19 symptoms before they are allowed to enter vehicles.

The airport’s existing screening protocols have been questioned by other airport workers.

Aujla says the GTAA or its partners in the federal government should spearhead safety changes, since his taxi and limousine drivers are being relied upon to provide an essential service to returning travellers.

“Drivers are still in danger,” added Navyug Gill, the son of a retired airport taxi driver. “Bringing attention to this now could hopefully result in some change happening so more drivers aren’t getting sick and passing.”

Other taxi concerns

Earlier this month, Toronto released updated guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in taxis and ride-share vehicles.

Mayor John Tory revealed the new measures after reports that some public health workers advised potential COVID-19 patients to take taxis to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

John Tory✔@JohnTory

I have asked the Emergency Operation Centre to work with @BeckTaxi to set up a protocol to protect both drivers and residents, and to make sure people have the transportation they need. If you’re booking a taxi to go for testing, please advise the company so they can prepare.

Embedded video

Residents are now asked to inform the taxi company of their medical situation, and to practise “respiratory etiquette and hand hygiene” during the trips.

In its statement, the GTAA added that it has been working closely with the industry group Consultative Committee on Taxis and Limos, which is ultimately responsible for the health and safety of drivers.

The GTAA said it is also willing to help drivers “source additional personal protective equipment, should they require assistance.”

Canadian Forces Snowbirds launch cross-Canada tour

From Canada’s National Defense

April 29, 2020 – Moose Jaw, SK – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds perform over 19 Wing Comox, British Columbia, on April 11, 2017. PHOTO: Master Seaman Roxanne Wood

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds will cross the country to salute Canadians doing their part to fight the spread of COVID-19.  This unique mission is being aptly dubbed Operation INSPIRATION.

The team’s signature nine-jet formation, with trailing white smoke, will fly over cities across the country starting in Nova Scotia this weekend and working west throughout the week. The team will release anticipated locations, routes, and times on their social media platforms each day. Flyovers will occur at an elevation no lower than 500 feet above all obstacles.   

The team will be practicing recommended hand-washing and wearing recommended personal protective equipment while travelling. Team members will also be minimizing any interactions with people outside of the team.

We encourage Canadians to observe the flyovers from the safety of their home and refrain from travelling to see the flyovers. Please maintain physical distancing practices that are keeping us all safe.


“The iconic Snowbirds have a special place in the hearts of many Canadians. We hope that their presence over Canadian cities and towns to acknowledge the hard work being done by Canadians in our grocery stores, our pharmacies, our hospitals and long-term care facilities lift up Canadians during these difficult times.”

The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

“Every year, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds travel the country putting smiles on the faces of Canadians. While Canadians may not be able to gather at air shows for now, we’re honoured to bring the Snowbirds team to Canadians and to pay special tribute to them.”

Lieutenant-General Al Meinzinger, Commander Royal Canadian Air Force 

“We’ve been asked to do what we do best… inspire Canadians. Through Operation INSPIRATION, we not only want to salute the front-line health care workers, first responders, and essential workers, but also all Canadians doing their part to stop the spread of COVID-19. We want Canadians to know we’re in this with you.”

Lieutenant-Colonel Mike French, Commanding Officer, Canadian Forces Snowbirds

Quick facts

  • The Canadian Forces Snowbirds paused operations on March 20, 2020 to preserve the team’s health. The members have been at home physically distancing since that time.
  • The team will spend two days at their home base of 15 Wing Moose Jaw in Saskatchewan flying refresher and proficiency training missions, which is standard Royal Canadian Air Force practice after an extended pause from flying operations, before starting their cross-Canada tour.

Watch Video: link to Snowbird site