Canadian Transportation Agency overwhelmed by 2-year backlog of air passenger complaints

News from CBC News – link to story

Passenger protections implemented last year led to ’23-fold leap in demand’, CTA says

Raisa Patel, Ashley Burke · CBC News · Posted: May 31, 2020

A response to an order paper question tabled by the federal NDP last week has revealed that more than half of the air travel complaints submitted to the Canadian Transportation Agency over the past two years remain untouched. (Mike Hillman/CBC News)

The Canadian Transportation Agency is wrestling with a backlog of nearly 14,000 air passenger complaints accumulated over the past two years, at the same time as thousands of Canadians are demanding the agency help get their money back from flights cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than half of the 26,000 complaints submitted to the CTA from July 2018 to April 2020 are unresolved, according to a response to an order paper question by the NDP tabled in Parliament last week on the number, nature and resolution of passenger complaints.

The bulk of the complaints — which are meant to be addressed within 30 to 120 days — are for disruptions to flights including cancellations, tarmac delays and people being denied boarding. 

The backlog doesn’t come as a surprise to Mahesh Krishnamurthy, a Canadian living in the U.S. who flies often and has launched four complaints with the agency over the past 15 years.

“Four complaints, zero resolutions,” Krishnamurthy said. “You know it’s frustrating, but you realize at the end, sometimes that’s what government is.”

Krishnamurthy recently submitted a complaint about an Air Canada flight from New York to Australia, which was meant to depart in April but was cancelled because of travel restrictions. His other complaints have included delays or problems with ticket prices. 

Complaints surged after new passenger protections implemented

The CTA told CBC News the vast majority of untouched cases are not tied to the global public health crisis, which largely grounded air travel around the world.  

The number of complaints more than doubled after the second wave of air passenger protection regulations came into effect in December 2019, the agency said.

The regulations, first enacted in July 2019, are intended to ensure that both airlines and passengers know what their rights are when it comes to travel setbacks like delays and cancellations. The CTA is an independent, quasi-judicial tribunal and regulator tasked with settling disputes between the customers and airlines. 

It simply reflects the challenges of handling a 23-fold leap in demand- Canadian Transportation Agency

“The massive increase in complaint volumes has made it increasingly challenging to meet these standards, despite the mobilization of effort across the organization,” the agency wrote in a statement to CBC News. 

“This isn’t for lack of effort or commitment; it simply reflects the challenges of handling a 23-fold leap in demand.”

The agency said it has attempted to tackle the influx of cases by resolving complaints through more informal methods including mediation, launching inquiries to simultaneously clear up common complaints about the same issue and reallocating resources internally.

NDP transport critic Niki Ashton said the backlog shows the agency isn’t doing its job to protect passengers.

“The Canadian government should be stepping up … to make sure that Canadians’ complaints are being heard, are being resolved,” Ashton said.

Thousands of complaints since onset of pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has only added to the mounting pile of complaints. 

The CTA says it logged about 5,500 complaints from March 11 to May 28, though it did not disclose what they were about.

The number was revealed as Canadians across the country are calling on the federal government to compel airlines to refund costs for flights they were never able to board. Most Canadian airlines have offered passengers travel vouchers redeemable within two years — something the CTA has said could be reasonable during these extraordinary circumstances. 

Ashton, however, believes Ottawa should look harder at compensating those who cancelled their trips.

“That’s something that we know is a huge issue right now,” she said.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday that forcing airlines to refund passengers would have a “devastating effect” on an already battered industry.

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau said Canadian airlines could go bankrupt if they were forced to refund passengers billions of dollars for flights cancelled due to the pandemic. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Meanwhile, the CTA says that while none of its services were suspended because of the pandemic, it did suspend its interactions with airlines about outstanding disputes. 

That decision was made to allow carriers “to focus on immediate demands, such as repatriating Canadians stranded abroad, and to adjust their operations in light of plummeting passenger and flight volumes,” the agency said.

The CTA added conversations will resume with airlines starting in July. 

CAA: ‘The system is simply clogged up’

The Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) — a travel agency and consumer group that originally pushed for the passenger protections and took part in the consultation process — said the CTA can’t support passengers if it doesn’t have the staffing or resources to do so. 

“We’ve been saying since the start of this process that no matter how good the rules are, if we don’t have good enforcement, it’s simply not going to work,” said CAA spokesperson Ian Jack.

“The system is simply clogged up and not working. If we don’t have a system that people can trust because it’s going to deal with a complaint in a timely fashion, then the system just falls apart and we’re no better off than we were before we pushed to get this airline passenger bill of rights.”

Canadian Automobile Association spokesperson Ian Jack says that the CTA needs more staffing and resources to do its job, but that the agency also needs to be more transparent about its caseload. (Jean-Francois Benoit/CBC)

The CTA received temporary funding from the federal government over the past two fiscal years to address the rise in complaints, but the agency was not able to immediately confirm the amount to CBC News. The agency did say it nearly doubled the number of complaints it processed during that time period.

Jack said the next step is to go beyond opposition parties asking questions in Parliament: he wants to see data about complaints and the CTA’s response times made publicly available so consumers can see for themselves if it’s working.

“If people lose trust in the system, they’re never going to come back to it and we’re not going to have an effective air passenger rights regime in this country,” he said.

Krishnamurthy agrees.

“By the third or fourth time, you don’t really have any expectations of them actually resolving the complaint,” he said. “You know you’ve got to do it on your own.”

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One of world’s biggest cargo planes lands at Edmonton International Airport

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One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport Saturday. For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours.
 One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport Saturday. For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours. Nicole Stillger / Global News

One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) Saturday afternoon.

For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours.

“It’s a bit of a bright spot for us in a time when we are in this long, temporary downturn on passenger travel,” EIA president and CEO Tom Ruth said.

There are only 55 of the behemoths worldwide.

It has four turbofan engines and more than 20 tires. It can carry 150 tonnes — or 23 elephants.

The plane doesn’t make an appearance in Edmonton that often.

Ruth said it’s all part of their air cargo strategy.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“Edmonton is becoming more and more known as a North American air cargo gateway,” Ruth explained. “We’ve invested a lot of time and strategy and energy on being that air cargo hub.”

Passenger traffic generates 90 per cent of EIA’s revenue, but it’s down about 95 per cent right now.

Less than two weeks ago, the airport was forced to lay off 40 per cent of its staff.

Ruth said since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, cargo charter business has doubled.

“We’ve seen this continuing growth with air cargo, particularly this year, even with the downturn with the pandemic,” he said.

“Our air cargo numbers are up, even though globally they’ve been down.”

The airport noted, because of client confidentiality, the exact manifest, details and volumes of each cargo plane cannot be released.

Many of the charters are carrying things like personal protective equipment (PPE) and e-commerce deliveries because of online shopping.

Ruth said with more flights expected in the coming weeks, it shows the demand is there.

“We’ve seen this accelerated pace of air freight, so the fact we have three of these [planes] on the ground on the same day shows we are moving lots more air cargo,” he said.

“It’s really a critical component in the future. Air cargo is only two per cent of the volume of goods shipped around the world, but it’s 35 per cent of the value — so if you’re growing air cargo, you’re creating a lot of air pipelines throughout the world.”

Ruth said air cargo is critical not only to the local economy but across the region.

With average passenger traffic levels not expected to return for at least another three years, he said these flights are bringing some much-needed activity.

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

No injuries reported but 18 passengers are in isolation as a COVID-19 precaution

News from CBC News – link to story

Seattle-bound flight forced to divert to Whitehorse

Chris Windeyer · CBC News · Posted: May 30, 2020

Passengers are led from a Delta Air Lines jet to the terminal building at Whitehorse International Airport on May 30, 2020. The Airbus 220-100 diverted to Whitehorse after encountering problems with its auxiliary power unit during a flight between Fairbanks, Alaska, and Seattle. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

A Delta Air Lines flight travelling from Fairbanks, Alaska, to Seattle made an unscheduled stop in Whitehorse Saturday.

Morgan Durrant, a spokesperson for Delta, said the Airbus 220-100 diverted to Whitehorse as a precaution and that none of the 18 passengers on board were injured.

“The flight crew of Delta flight 1327 from Fairbanks to Seattle observed a performance issue with the aircraft’s auxiliary power unit,” Durrant wrote in an email. Auxiliary power units provide energy to run systems on board an aircraft other than propulsion.

“Procedures call for a diversion to a nearby airport out of an abundance of caution. The aircraft landed in routine fashion at Whitehorse International Airport at about 9:35 am local time.”

Passengers were escorted by airport staff from the plane across the tarmac to the terminal building. Most were wearing masks.

Brittanee Stewart, the assistant manager of Whitehorse International Airport, said the Canadian Border Services Agency was at the airport, but that passengers would not be allowed to leave the international lounge.

“We’re working with the COVID-19 response team, CBSA and the air carrier to ensure that all the necessary regulations and measures are being adhered to,” she said.

Stewart said another Delta jet was on its way to Whitehorse and she expected the passenger would depart by Saturday evening.

Eleventh-hour deal keeps Ornge flying out of Billy Bishop Airport

News from The Star – link to story

By Kevin Donovan, Chief Investigative Reporter | Sat., May 30, 2020

Ornge will continue to fly out of the Billy Bishop island airport after agreeing to a new rent deal.  ORNGE

A last-minute reprieve with a favourable rent deal will keep the air ambulance service Ornge flying out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport during the pandemic, officials say.

Ornge’s annual rent at the downtown airport has been reset by landlord Ports Toronto to roughly $200,000 a year. It was a whopping $5 million for the three-month period of March, April and May because Ornge had to cover all airport costs after Porter Airlines and Air Canada ceased flying from the island.

The provincial health ministry, which funds Ornge ($204 million annually), paid that bill to keep the airport open. Now, at least for the time being, the annual rent is back to normal.

“It is vital that Ornge maintains operations (at Billy Bishop) as it is a key patient transport hub providing quick access to trauma hospitals,” said Hayley Chazan, a spokesperson for provincial health minister Christine Elliott.

Ports Toronto and the ministry are still discussing terms going forward. Both parties are hoping normal airport operations will resume later this summer.

“We are exceedingly proud to have Ornge based at Billy Bishop Airport and are committed to do whatever we can, within our power, to keep Ornge at Billy Bishop Airport and return the airport itself to strength as soon as is possible and appropriate,” said Deborah Wilson, a Ports Toronto spokesperson.

Ornge operates two full-time helicopter crews out of Billy Bishop, and also flies fixed-wing aircraft from the island airport.

Several weeks ago, the Star revealed an unusual financial arrangement had arisen when Porter and Air Canada pulled out of Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport in March due to the global pandemic. Only one tenant — the provincially funded Ornge — was left to keep the lights on. For three months, that amounted to close to $5 million.

Feds won’t force airline ticket refunds for COVID-19 cancellations

News from City News 1130 – link to story

BY THE CANADIAN PRESS | Posted May 29, 2020

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, May 13, 2019. CANADIAN PRESS, Jonathan Hayward


  • Canada’s transport minister said forced refunds would further devastate industry
  • PM Justin Trudeau said there is a way to balance survival of the industry with fair treatment for consumers

OTTAWA — The federal government is signalling that it won’t force airlines to offer refunds to ticket holders for flights cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal transport minister Marc Garneau said Friday mandating a reimbursement on a sector that has lost more than 90 per cent of its revenue during the lockdown would basically cripple an industry that’s of vital importance to Canada.

“If airlines had to immediately reimburse all cancelled tickets it would have a devastating effect on the air sector which has been reeling since the COVID-19 pandemic started,” he said.

On airline refunds, Prime Minister repeats message that it is a fine balance to make sure Canadian consumers are treated fairly, & airlines don’t face further financial devastation. Wants to make sure there is an airline industry after this pandemic #COVID19 #cdnpoli

Cormac Mac Sweeney✔@cmaconthehill

Similarly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said consumer concerns can be addressed fairly, but the industry’s survival must also be ensured.

“We will continue to work with the industry and with concerned groups of Canadians to ensure that we find a fair way through this. But I know Canadians at the same time want to make sure we continue to have an airline industry after this very difficult pandemic. Getting that balance right and listening to Canadians is what we will do.”

In recent weeks, Canadian consumer pressure has intensified on the likes of Air Canada and WestJet to offer full refunds instead of the flight vouchers currently used for cancelled flights. WestJet is offering flight vouchers usable within two years. Air Canada is refunding its refundable ticket holders, but those holding non-refundable tickets have been offered vouchers that don’t expire or conversion of credits into Aeroplan Miles.

Modular A220 concept

From Camber Aviation Management and Business Jet Interiors- link to story


Stephen Vella of Kestrel Aviation Management and Tom Chatfield of Camber Aviation Management present an A220 corporate cabin concept developed with Pierrejean Vision, F/List and Flying Colours

An alternative is required to ultra-long-range business jets with limited cabin space and airliners characterised by high acquisition costs combined with greater owner risk. In the case of the former, the attractiveness of such incredible range is limited by the requirement to carry additional flight deck crew on such long journeys, which may require use of the passenger cabin. Meanwhile, airliners are sold green, that is, without a cabin installed, requiring the buyer to contract a designer, a completion centre and an experienced project manager to oversee the complex process from aircraft purchase, through design, build, certification and entry into service. The buyer, who rarely has experience in this field, must invest considerable effort while shouldering all of the budget and schedule risk.

Camber Aviation Management, Kestrel Aviation Management and Pierrejean Vision have partnered to create a solution. This team has created and delivered numerous narrow- and wide-body Airbus and Boeing VIP aircraft for private individuals, corporations and heads of state over the past 20 years.

L-R: Tom Chatfield of Camber Aviation Management, Stephen Vella of Kestrel Aviation Management, and Jacques Pierrejean of Pierrejean Vision

Market requirements
The team canvassed the market and identified several key features that a new design would require. These included a spacious cabin capable of seating of 10-32 passengers; modular, configurable layouts to suit different missions; and global, high-speed connectivity with entertainment options that match those enjoyed on the ground. The aircraft would also need to offer a max-payload range covering 90% of the missions operated by current large-cabin aircraft; be supported by exceptional operational and technical product service worldwide; and be at least 20% less expensive to own and operate compared to direct competitors. The team concluded there was only one platform that met the defined criteria – the Bombardier CSeries 300, now the Airbus A220-300.

The A220 met all of the market’s expectations but the differentiator would centre on a unique cabin design and the quality of the finished aircraft. The team partnered with F/List and Flying Colours Corporation to refine the detail design and perform engineering studies. F/List was chosen for its exceptional skills in fabricating VIP jet cabin interiors while Flying Colours was selected for its extensive engineering and cabin integration skills. Together, the team invested over 18 months to refine the detailed design of the A220 cabin and its associated systems.

There are three fixed zones and four flexible ones

Project aims
As well as creating a beautiful, state-of-the-art cabin, it was vital to offer a broad range of aesthetic customisation options, incorporate clever engineering and production strategies to shorten the outfitting cycle, and drastically reduce cabin non-recurring costs through intelligent pre-engineering custom configurations.

The design is centred on a seven-zone modular cabin comprised of three fixed and four variable zones. The forward, mid and aft zones are fitted with common entry and galley, VIP lavatory and closet, and master suite with queen-size bed and en-suite washroom featuring a steam shower, respectively.

A guest lounge

The flexible zones enable each buyer to create their own layout. The buyer can, for example, select a spacious lounge that converts to a dining room with a unique convertible table design, a cosy forward cabin, a bespoke media lounge with a 75in screen and tuned Dolby surround sound, an expansive private office or children’s bedroom. True customisation is achieved by applying the client’s preferred colour palette, materials and finishes.

The dining and conference area

Key equipment includes unique VIP cabin lining and lighting styles to emphasize different cabin zones; seating designed to provide comfortable sleep options; galley inserts including steam and induction ovens, an espresso maker and wine chiller; a dual AVOD IFE system with massive library and wireless streaming to monitors, tablets and personal devices; and global Ku- or Ka-band voice/data satellite communications. The lighting, IFE, window shades and flight attendant call functions can be controlled from passenger tablets.

A private office

The distinctive modular concept was developed to simplify the cabin design process, reduce completion build times, and lower production and non-recurring costs over a number of aircraft. Together, these design goals significantly reduce manufacturing and certification costs – essential in achieving the right price point in the market while providing a bespoke and highly capable aircraft. Importantly, this technology allows the team to design a cabin that combines functionality and aesthetics together with reliability and ease of maintenance, a combination that cannot be easily realized for one-off ‘prototype’ designs in legacy airliners.

The optional media lounge

About the authors: As CEO of Camber Aviation Management, Tom Chatfield leads a team of experts that guide and manage the complex process of transforming an airliner to a corporate jet. Stephen Vella is CEO Kestrel Aviation Management, which has turnkey project managed the purchase, cabin design, outfitting and sale of 50 large corporate aircraft, including the world’s first BBJ787.

Images: ©Camber Aviation Management, Kestrel Aviation Management and Pierrejean Vision 2019.

Canadian airlines could ‘fail’ if forced to refund passengers, says transport minister

News from CBC News – link to story

Passengers argue they’re the ones giving interest-free loans to the airline industry

Ashley Burke · CBC News · May 29, 2020

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says it’s his responsibility to make sure Canada’s airlines survive the pandemic. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Transport Minister Marc Garneau says that Canadian airlines could go bankrupt if the ailing industry is compelled to refund passengers billions of dollars for flights cancelled due to the pandemic.

“I have said many times that I have enormous sympathy for those who would have preferred to have a cash refund in these difficult circumstances. It is far from being an ideal situation,” Garneau told a press conference earlier today.

“At the same time, if airlines had to immediately reimburse all cancelled tickets, it would have a devastating effect on the air sector, which has been reeling since the COVID 19 pandemic started.”

Garneau was doubling down on a message he delivered to the House of Commons’ pandemic committee on Thursday, when he warned MPs that if airlines “had to reimburse at this time, some of them could fail.”

The minister said today it’s his responsibility to help Canada’s airlines survive the pandemic.

“It is so essential for this country,” he said. “This is the second largest country on Earth, with its distances and remote areas, and we expect and need an airline industry in this country.”

Watch | Reporters question Marc Garneau about airline ticket refunds

But his response isn’t sitting well with Canadians struggling financially during the pandemic who argue it’s their right as consumers to get their money back for flights they never took.

“It’s very disappointing and frustrating,” said Tammie Fang, a health care essential worker in B.C. “My rights as a consumer have been put aside to help balance the airline industry.”

Fang works at a New Westminster hospital assisting with open-heart surgeries. She said she spends much of her spare time calling and emailing Air Transat seeking a refund of roughly $500 for a flight to Toronto she never took. She describes it as an extra burden during an already stressful and financially challenging time.

“It’s disheartening,” she said. “It’s unbelievable how much effort we have to put in.”

Airlines’ survival versus consumers’ rights

Canada’s airline industry has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, and most of the country’s airline fleet is sitting idle at airports across the country. Airlines are losing 90 per cent of their normal revenue streams and some have put their operations completely on pause.

At the same time, pressure is mounting on the federal government to step in and force airlines to pay back passengers who also are struggling financially. Two petitions with more than 30,000 signatures combined have been submitted to Parliament in recent weeks calling on the government to demand that airlines tapping into taxpayer-funded government supports reimburse grounded passengers.

Most large passenger planes around the world have been grounded due to the pandemic. (Nick Oxford/Reuters)

Billions tied up in refunds

For the most part, Canadian airlines are offering those passengers travel vouchers redeemable for two years. Air Canada also announced last week that it’s allowing people to transfer their tickets to others, which could permit ticket holders to sell them. The Canadian Transportation Agency has said offering vouchers could be a reasonable measure in the current circumstances.

Garneau’s office said it would cost airlines billions of dollars to refund customers. When CBC asked Transport Canada for specific numbers, it was told the figures the government receives from airlines amount to proprietary information that it isn’t authorized to release.

Air Canada’s books are open, since it’s a publicly traded company. It has about $2.6 billion tied up in ticket sales for future travel over the next year.

On March 16, the airline said its current liquidity level was $6.3 billion — a record level — and its balance sheet was solid. Since then, Air Canada has said it’s burning $22 million a day in operating costs and plans to reduce its workforce by 50 to 60 per cent. The company said a dramatic drop in demand during the pandemic caused the airline to slash its flight capacity by 95 per cent. 

Government in talks with airlines and consumers

Outside Rideau Cottage today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau repeated a message he’s delivered in the past — that the government has to strike the right balance between keeping airlines afloat and preserving consumers’ rights. 

“I hear clearly the concerns that Canadians have around their air tickets,” said Trudeau. “We will continue to work with the industry and with concerned groups of Canadians to ensure that we find a fair way through this. 

“But I know Canadians at the same time want to make sure we continue to have an airline industry after this very difficult pandemic.”

The government is in talks with airlines and is looking to see what other countries have done with travel refunds. It’s expected to deliver an update on the file in the coming weeks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is in talks with airlines and consumers to try and find a fair approach to refunds for cancelled flights. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Air Canada service to resume at London’s (ON) airport in June with 2 Toronto-bound flights daily

News from Global News – link to story


The entrance and sign to London International Airport on July 19, 2017.
 The entrance and sign to London International Airport on July 19, 2017. Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL

Plane traffic has been few and far between at London’s International Airport amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but come next month that will change.

Airport officials say Air Canada, which hasn’t flown into or out of London, Ont., for the last several weeks, will begin offering two daily flights to Toronto starting June 22.

The impact of the coronavirus on air travel is evident when you consider that pre-pandemic, nine Air Canada flights left London every day for Toronto, in addition to two Ottawa-bound flights and one to Montreal.

“We’ve gone from, I guess, 2,500 passengers a day to some days… yesterday we were at 25 passengers — 10 going out and 15 coming in,” said Mike Seabrook, the airport’s president and CEO.

WestJet has continued to operate passenger service out of the airport, albeit with fewer flights — about four a week — all to Toronto, Seabrook says. The airline is expected to up that number to one a day beginning in July.

Despite the lack of passenger service, the airport hasn’t been entirely quiet thanks to medevac, cargo, and corporate departures, along with occasional general aviation flights — “the person who likes to fly for fun.”

“But it is really eerily slow,” Seabrook said. “So we’re looking forward to society getting back to even close to normal and a return of flying activity.”

A return to normal can’t come soon enough.

Following a year of record-breaking passenger traffic in 2019, airport revenue is expected to be halved in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Seabrook, however, is optimistic.

“There’s still demand here in our marketplace, and we’ll get this thing back when society returns to levels that’ll support travel again.”

Seabrook said the airport has experienced voluntary layoffs due to the pandemic, but has otherwise kept on most of its crew with assistance from the Emergency Wage Subsidy Program.

We’ve kept all our crew working, kind of, in two crews at separate times, keeping separation,” he said. “We’ve managed to keep everybody busy.”

Workers have been using the dearth of traffic over the last several weeks as an opportunity to spruce up the airport, repaving the main parking lot, painting the inside of the terminal, and replacing tarmac on the taxiway.

With borders closed and travel restrictions in effect, the aviation industry, like many others, has been hit hard by the pandemic, with airlines bleeding cash as planes remain grounded and maintenance and airport fees add up.

Two weeks ago, Air Canada announced it would lay off about 20,000 employees after reporting a first-quarter loss of more than $1 billion after slashing its flight capacity by more than 90 per cent.

Last week, the company said it would bolster its summer schedule, which nonetheless remains more than 50 per cent smaller than last year.

WestJet, meanwhile, has cancelled tens of thousands of flights, including all U.S. and international routes, through July 4, and has shed around 9,000 workers, according to a company spokesperson.

Talking to the airlines, obviously, they’re very cautious,” Seabrook said of restarting flights. “If they’re operating their aircraft at empty or near-empty, they’re losing more money than if the aircraft had just parked.”

But they are seeing positive signs in terms of demand,” he noted. “People do have to travel.”

“There’s a segment of society that just travels for fun, but we do have to get around … So there’s pent up demand and we just hope that the faucet gets turned on fairly quickly.”

The International Air Transport Association predicts global revenues will fall by US$314 billion this year, or 55 per cent, from 2019.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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

Industry Leaders Call on Federal Government to Streamline Rules and Encourage Canadian Travel; Launch Canadian Tourism Roundtable

From Canadian Tourism Roundtable

OTTAWA, May 29, 2020 /CNW/ – Leaders of the Canadian tourism and travel sectors today announced the formation of the Canadian Tourism Roundtable (“Roundtable”), a coalition of industry representatives committed to restoring the Canadian tourism and travel sector in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Roundtable is calling on all levels of government to work together to streamline and clarify rules around travel in order to ensure safe, accessible and timely travel for Canadians this summer.

Link to Letter to the Prime Minister.

This sector, which supports 1.8 million workers across the country, has been devastated by the pandemic and urgent action must be taken to prevent long-lasting economic and job impacts. Through the Roundtable, leaders of Canada’s tourism and travel sector – airports, airlines, hotels, chambers of commerce, and others – have come together to restart the sector smoothly and safely and are committed to working together with all levels of government to restore the Canadian tourism industry to its potential.

“The Roundtable is looking forward to working with governments across the country to take meaningful steps to ease travel and quarantine restrictions so that they are more targeted and less universal. Failing to do so risks permanently losing millions of jobs across the country that depend upon a robust tourism sector. Other jurisdictions, like the European Union and Australia, have already unveiled action plans to save the summer travel season,” said Charlotte Bell, Chief Executive Officer of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada (TIAC).

“The aviation, hospitality, and tourism sectors were hit particularly hard by the pandemic,” said Perrin Beatty, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “Although a return to pre-crisis conditions may be several years off, protecting this vital sector during the critical summer season will require a carefully calibrated and targeted response from government.  Restoring tourism is important for all regions of Canada,” he added.

For many Canadian businesses in the sector, re-opening the summer travel season is critical for their survival. Roundtable members recently wrote to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau requesting a meeting to discuss appropriate, more targeted and urgent measures to get the sector back to work and to encourage Canadians to safely explore our country this summer, so the season is not entirely lost for travelers or the industry.

Working with all levels of government, the Canadian Tourism Roundtable is confident it can develop and coordinate a comprehensive plan that is highly focused on public safety, to streamline the rules with the end-to-end traveler experience in mind, and to enable Canadians to connect with family and friends across the country once again, while simultaneously restoring some of Canada’s all-important summer tourism season.

Universal Helicopters shuts down after almost 60 years in N.L.

News from CBC New – link to story

Company went out of business due to financial issues

CBC News · Posted: May 27, 2020

This Universal Helicopters Bell 407 was part of the company’s fleet. (Andrew Matthews/Aerospace Imaging)

After nearly six decades in Newfoundland and Labrador, Universal Helicopters has closed due to financial reasons. 

At the end of Tuesday’s business day, all of its operations — including those of its subsidiaries — ended. 

“Universal Helicopters reached this decision after working unsuccessfully with its banks to find solutions to stay in business,” the company said in a press release Wednesday morning. 

It said it was “vulnerable after a poor financial performance in 2019” that carried into 2020, as management and the board of directors worked on ways to keep it going since September, when its future was “a going concern.”

Universal Helicopters said it engaged legal and financial advisors, negotiated with key stakeholders like its creditors, and retained a broker to help with marketing and sales of its assets. 

Those poor financial results were “exacerbated by high levels of bank debt,” which the company said came from its acquiring Lakelse Air in 2018, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the global economic downturn from the latter as well as other recent events. 

“These occurrences have had a drastic negative impact on the operations of all businesses of Universal Helicopters,” the statement read. 

With no acceptable plan reached to address Universal Helicopters’ immediate need for liquidity to keep going and pay its obligations to its creditors, the company closed, despite what it called “substantial efforts” to avoid it. 

In an emailed statement to CBC News Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Transportation and Works said the cost of helicopter services with Universal was $2.5 million in 2019-20.

“As the current contract with Universal was set to expire on March 31, 2020, the department issued a request for proposals in late 2019 for the supply and delivery of helicopter services,” the statement reads.

“The department’s contract with Universal was extended beyond March 31, 2020, and government has been preparing to make a decision on the next contract.”

The department said officials have been speaking with other businesses that provide helicopter service, noting Canadian Helicopters and Newfoundland Helicopters have agreed to provide assistance to ensure that the services previously provided by Universal will continue.

Nunatsiavut Group of Companies have 40 per cent share

The Nunatsiavut Group of Companies owned 40 per cent of Universal Helicopters, according to NGC president and CEO Chris Webb. 

CBC News asked him for an interview, but he declined, citing legal reasons. 

A few hours later, Webb issued a statement about the shutdown. 

He said the minority stake was obtained in the fall of 2013.

“Unfortunately, the investment did not work out … as intended,” according to the news release. 

Webb noted the company performed poorly in 2019, and since then, various options were looked at in order to stay in business. 

“The financial impact of the decision upon NGC and its affiliates will remain uncertain until the proceeds of the partnership assets are determined,” Webb said in the statement. 

‘End of a legacy’

Geoff Goodyear, a former helicopter pilot and CEO of Universal who joined the company in 1979, said he was surprised to hear the news.

“Not just a normal type of surprise, it was like, ‘Oh my,'” Goodyear said. “What a sad event for not only here, but for the industry.”

“It’s sort of the end of a legacy,” he added. “There’s more than one provincial citizen that’s been born in the back of a Universal helicopter, and people that owe their lives to the services … so it’s going to affect the province, and Labrador specifically, in numerous ways.”

Former Universal CEO Geoff Goodyear joined the company in 1979, and calls the closure of the business “the end of a legacy.” (John Gaudi/CBC)

Goodyear said Universal was unique in the aviation industry, serving as a trendsetter over the years.

“Even though we were an older company, we were the test bed for real-time satellite flight following,” he said. “A lot of the stuff the industry takes for granted today, Universal played a role in.”

Goodyear said the helicopter industry is heavily impacted by capital, which has taken a hit across the board as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses.

“You’ve got an industry that’s very capital intensive, on top of depressed markets. And all of a sudden the markets disappear,” he said. “Everybody in the equation is pressing the reset button except the bankers. The bank still needs people to pay.”

With files from Janice Goudie and Alex Kennedy