Calgary airport 1 of only 4 international hubs as sun destination flights suspended

By Slav Kornik  Global News | January 30, 2021

The federal government is imposing a series of strict new rules on international travel that include the cancellation of flights to some destination and mandatory hotel-based quarantines for returning Canadians. Richard Zussman has the details.

The federal government has announced Canada’s major airlines will suspend service to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico starting this Sunday until April 30 as more infectious variants of COVID-19 continue to spread.

All international passenger flights must land at only four airports in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Calgary.

The Calgary Airport Authority said it is working with the federal government and airline partners to implement the changes.

“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on our airport and there will be further significant business impacts arising from these new requirements,” said Reid Fiest, Calgary Airport Authority external communications and media relations manager.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced a new mandatory PCR testing requirement at airports for people returning to Canada. Trudeau said while these travellers wait for this COVID-19 test result, they’ll be forced to quarantine for up to three days at a designated hotel – on their own dime.

Trudeau added that the cost for this is “expected to be more than $2,000.”

“Foreign travel, international travel, travel of any kind is just something you don’t want to do; it’s not the time for it,” Calgary-based aviation industry analyst Rick Erickson said.

“They put some very very tight restrictions on what already was a fairly difficult environment to ensure that Canadians – it’s not as though it’s impossible, it’s not as though you can’t come back to the country, but, boy, there are some very large fences that we hadn’t seen before.”

Erickson said suspending travel to popular sunspot destinations will be a major financial hit on Canada’s airline industry, particularly because the suspension is happening at a time when Canadians typically travel to warmer climates.

“If it’s -20C, those sunspot destinations are really attractive. A lot of Canadians are in that pattern, a lot of Canadians have property abroad,” he said.

“If you want to travel, it’s still possible but you better have deep pockets, you better be able to live with uncertainty, you better be able to understand risk and the like, and it’s going to be very, very difficult to go travel abroad.”

Fiest said the Calgary Airport Authority will continue to advocate for federal government assistance for the air transportation industry amid the latest changes.

“To date, there has been no meaningful aviation sector support despite many of the most recent government policies having a significant adverse impact of Canada’s airports and airlines,” Fiest said.RELATED NEWS

“We acknowledge the Prime Minister recognized the dramatic impact of the pandemic on our industry and we hope to see urgent action and support.”

Erickson believes the suspension of sunspot destination flights signals the federal government is prepared to announce an assistance package for Canada’s airline industry.

“There’s got to be a tradeoff; I believe that tradeoff is finally some kind of financial compensation package and I’m listening with open ears as to what that’s going to be because we definitely want to ensure that Canadian carriers coming through this pandemic are on some kind of solid footing,” he said.

On Friday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the federal government is developing an assistance package for Canadian airlines, airports and the aerospace industry, but did not provide specifics.

“Our government understands that a strong air sector is vital for Canada’s economy and the well-being of Canadians,” Alghabra said.

“With passenger levels still down almost 90 per cent, airlines have been forced to take drastic measures to remain viable. The sector cannot respond to these challenges on its own.”

The new measures are aimed at discouraging travellers from taking non-essential trips outside of the country, amid numerous reports that some Canadians have been escaping the chilly winter with vacations to sunny destinations.

Cases linked to international travel account for just two per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada. The measures come amid an uncomfortable reality about the number of travellers that are skipping quarantine measures altogether.

More than 6.3 million travellers who have entered Canada since the start of the pandemic were not required to quarantine, according to new figures Global News obtained Thursday from the Canada Border Services Agency.

—With files from Rachel Gilmore, Andrew Russell RELATED NEWS

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

‘Saw it coming’: London International Airport CEO responds to new flight suspensions

From Global News – link to source story

By Kelly Wang  980 CFPL | January 30, 2021

FILE - London International Airport on July, 19, 2017.
FILE – London International Airport on July, 19, 2017. Matthew Trevithick/980 CFPL

The president and CEO of a London, Ont., airport says he “saw it coming” when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new flight suspensions Friday.

“As an industry, I think we certainly expected it,” said Mike Seabrook with the London International Airport while speaking with 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady on Let’s Talk London.

During his announcement, Trudeau said Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have all agreed to cancel air services to “all Caribbean destinations and Mexico,” starting Sunday.

The cancellations will continue until April 30.

Seabrook says the London International Airport lost all of its flights to the Caribbean and Mexico in March of last year, “so the only thing we’ve had since is domestic flights.”

“We’ve been at the bottom for eight months (or so), and (this is) just another nail in the coffin.”

Prior to the pandemic, the airport offered direct flights to tropical destinations such as Cancun, Mexico and Montego Bay, Jamaica.

“This whole process has … really, really hammered aviation,” said Seabrook. “But as an industry, we certainly get it. We don’t want to put anyone at harm and we support (safety) measures.”

In the meantime, staff at the London International Airport is keeping busy with ongoing maintenance.“We’ve got a significant reduction of our staff out there, so it’s all hands on deck. We have managers and people who don’t plow, [now doing] snow plowing snow and shoveling. We’re trying to utilize what resources we have because there is a minimum standard we have to adhere to,” said Seabrook.

“We have to make sure planes landing and taking off do so in a safe manner. We’ve got air ambulances and cargo flights that are still coming in.”

The president and CEO says he’s hopeful the aviation industry will bounce back once the COVID-19 pandemic ends.

“If the vaccines can get out there, if we can refine (testing) at airports and get people to feel confident to travel again, then as an industry, we’ll be back to the prosperous times we’ve had before.”

Trudeau’s announcement also included a new mandatory PCR testing requirement at airports for people returning to Canada. While travellers wait for their COVID-19 test result, they’ll be quarantined at a designated hotel on their own dime.

Trudeau said the cost for this is “expected to be more than $2,000.”

Cases linked to international travel account for two per cent of COVID-19 cases in Canada.

More than 6.3 million travellers who have entered Canada since the start of the pandemic were not required to quarantine, according to new figures Global News obtained Thursday from the Canada Border Services Agency.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

The CEO of Cargojet on how the pandemic led to one of his company’s most successful years ever

From the Toronto Star – link to source story

By Joanna Pachner, Special to the Star | Sat., Jan. 30, 2021

Mississauga-based Cargojet founder and CEO Ajay Virmani has guided his company to great heights during the pandemic, riding booming e-commerce to the company’s best quarterly results.  PETER J. THOMPSON

Last year was annus horribillis for airlines — unless their business was shipping.

Mississauga-based Cargojet soared through the pandemic, riding booming e-commerce to its best quarterly results. Founder and CEO Ajay Virmani, who started out as a window washer when he came to Toronto from New Delhi at 19 embodies the immigrant dream, now hobnobbing with the likes of Drake and Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors. But success breeds competition. Is Cargojet about to face some headwinds?

When did you first realize this pandemic would rock your business?

I saw a five-line news item in early January about a SARS-like virus floating around China. By end of January, we started to prepare how we would access our equipment, get people to work. Many thought I was a bit negative, but viruses travel and I was surprised that in early February, when all the signs were there, we still had six to eight flights a day coming in from that region. I was supposed to go on a trip to South India in February and I pulled the plug. I didn’t want to be quarantined in Indian army barracks because one of us had a cold.

Did you do other preparations in anticipation of this sudden surge?

We started securing PPE the first week of February when we noticed dropping availability. The big thing, though, was in the middle of 2019 we debated whether we should get more planes. It was an $80-million decision and I said, “Every time we get a new plane, we find work for it.” We decided to roll the dice and bought two passenger planes and converted them to cargo. That ended up being the company’s saving grace. Right time, lucky decision.

What is some of the more unusual cargo you have shipped over the past year?

Normally we carry anything that needs overnight delivery — flowers, food, computer and automobiles parts — but what was unusual about last year was PPE and essential medical supplies. People were stocking up on syringes, Band-Aids, even Tylenol and thermometers, and the majority of this stuff is not made in Canada. Then, when the lockdowns happened, we carried a lot of daily necessities.

Planeloads of toilet paper?

Yeah. Everybody anticipated shortages, so we saw shipments of stuff not typically shipped urgently by air. It changed the nature of this business. Cargo shipments have become like a utility: you wake up in the morning, turn on your lamp, run your water and look for your deliveries.

What moments from last year stand out in your mind, ones you’ll be telling your grandchildren about?

In early March, I had a conference call with my team and the spirit was that we were in a war. I got very emotional about it. We were asked to travel to China, we were going into unchartered waters. Our people were putting their lives on the line by flying into hot zones like Germany at that time.

You had not shipped to China before?

We had done occasional charters, but Canada and China don’t have a good relationship. Last year, we were bringing back masks and medical supplies, and the authorities wouldn’t give us landing permits. To the Chinese ground workers, we were the last priority and our pilots were subject to harassment. When they landed, they were taken, almost like hostages, for testing and locked in a room for 15 hours until they got the results. You’re given food through a window, like in jail; no communication. After 15 hours, they walk you to the plane or into a different quarantine centre, depending on test results. So here’s a pilot who spent 12 hours flying, 15 hours in lock-up during which he probably hadn’t slept, and then he has to fly another 12 hours back. It was nerve-wracking, so we found an alternative by basing pilots in Tokyo.

Many passenger airlines have shifted focus to cargo. How has your relationship with them changed?

Competition is healthy. It means the market is growing. I’ve been in this business since 1975, and between 1985 and 2000, I saw 14 cargo-flying airlines close their doors. They had one thing in common: their first love and 95 per cent of their business was the passenger side. If you don’t focus on cargo, it doesn’t work. Passenger planes don’t have cargo doors so everything is kind of hand-bombed into the planes. The test will be how committed to cargo these airlines are when passenger business comes back.

Competition is looming from other directions. Amazon already has its own airline. Do you foresee large retailers starting up air operations to handle growing e-commerce volumes?

Canada is a tricky country for airlines because we have a vast land mass and our major cities are very distant from each other. The other problem is that this country has one-way shipping traffic. Product flies from Ontario and Quebec to western Canada and hardly anything comes back, and the same goes for the East Coast. Those are big challenges e-tailers would face if they set up their own networks. Amazon plans to have huge airline operations in Europe and the U.S. but I don’t think we are big enough for that. The U.S. is a different story; there is as much shipping from Chicago to Seattle as Seattle to Chicago.

Do you think the government should be providing aid to Canada’s aviation industry?

The government needs to help certain industries, but the help should go to companies that cannot generate those funds from loans, debentures, equities. Interest rates are so low and there’s plenty of money available. If the government ends up helping, it should help the aviation industry as a whole, not individual companies that have deep pockets and can raise money. Give help to the airports by lowering the rent government charges them and airports will pass those discounts on to the airlines. Same thing with assisting with navigation costs or providing a fuel-tax holiday. Cargo doesn’t need help, but if it doesn’t get its fair share, it could be the cause of hyperinflation in daily necessities shipped by air because added costs will be passed to consumers.

This downturn may be worse for airlines than the post-9/11 slump. Back then, you picked up planes at 10 cents on the dollar. What are the bargains like now?

After 9/11, every airline was parking planes and in two to three years the passenger business was back close to what it had been. This time, many airlines are divesting planes because they don’t anticipate demand coming back for up to five years and they can’t afford to sit on those assets. Planes are not as cheap as after 9/11 but we’ve picked up five passenger aircraft that will enter our fleet in 2021 and 2022. Then, in 2023, we have committed to buy two superjumbo jets.

Last question: how do you know Drake?

I’ve known him for 10 years. He calls me a second father. We watched Raptors games together when he was starting out. Occasionally we had great seats and he didn’t so he would sit with me. He was very helpful with Cargojet, coming out to customer events. His song “Started from the Bottom” has an emotional connection for both of us.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Joanna Pachner is a business writer and a freelance contributor for the Star.

Air Canada flight attendant wins fight over COVID-19 workers’ compensation

From CBC News – link to source story

B.C. alone in introducing presumptive coverage that adds COVID-19 to its list of occupational illnesses

Jason Proctor · CBC News · Posted: Jan 30, 2021

An Air Canada check-in area is shown at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport on May 16, 2020. ( Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

A B.C-based Air Canada flight attendant who says she contracted COVID-19 during a series of long-haul flights last March has won a battle with the airline for workers’ compensation.

A WorkSafeBC officer sided with the flight attendant over the airline, which claimed the risk of getting COVID-19 on flights was “relatively low.”

The decision, which was reached in early January, is one of several recent rulings that highlight the struggles that employees in different fields have had in trying to get compensation for workplace exposure to the coronavirus — particularly in the early days of the pandemic.

Because the flight attendant got sick last spring, her application predated changes to provincial legislation last August that appear to have made B.C. a leader in Canada in dealing with COVID-19-related workers’ compensation claims.

The province is alone in introducing presumptive coverage that adds COVID-19 to its list of occupational illnesses — like lead- or asbestos-related sicknesses.

The change means employees who make a claim after catching COVID-19 at work no longer have to prove they got it on the job if they work in an environment where risk of exposure is significantly greater than to the public at large.

That’s in contrast to other provinces, where COVID-19 claims are treated on a case-by-case basis.

‘An unfortunate thing to have to deal with’

Wesley Lesosky, president of the airline division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, says the union would like to see the rest of the country follow B.C.’s example.

“We’d definitely like to see the same system that British Columbia has adopted where it’s just recognized — period,” Lesosky told CBC News.

Air Canada claimed the risk of flight attendants catching COVID-19 on board a plane was low. But a WorkSafeBC review officer said it was at least as likely as not that a B.C. flight attendant got the virus at work. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

“For us as a union, dealing with the appeal process is incredibly cumbersome and challenging in itself, but it’s definitely something we believe in because our members are front-line workers during the pandemic. It’s an unfortunate thing to have to deal with, but it’s definitely necessary.”

In the case of the flight attendant, the employer asked for a review of WorkSafeBC’s initial acceptance of the claim. The attendant said she worked a series of overseas flights between March 21 and March 30, 2020, and began feeling sick around March 28.

She tested positive for COVID-19 at a local hospital on April 4.

“The worker also advised the Board that she was told by the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (“CDC”) that there were several people on these flights who tested positive for COVID-19 and that two of her coworkers also contracted the illness,” the decision reads.

“She indicated that she is close to these coworkers and took her breaks with them.”

In her decision, review officer Melina Lorenz said the airline presented a study showing the risk of transmission on flights was low. But Lorenz said the study was published in October 2020 and only included data to that point. She said it also referred to the risk of transmission to passengers — not flight attendants.

“Passengers generally sit in their seats for their flights, with the exception of an occasional trip to the washroom,” Lorenz wrote. 

“The study did not address the risk to flight attendants who would be in contact with many passengers and would move throughout the aircraft.”

Thousands of COVID-related claims

The review doesn’t name the employee or the airline, but Lesosky confirmed that it pertained to an Air Canada flight attendant. It’s one of a handful of similar decisions that can be found by searching WorkSafeBC’s database. All involve situations which predate the August change to presumptive coverage.

In one, a pharmacy assistant claimed she got COVID-19 last April in a position where she regularly assisted customers “with the purchase of cough and cold medications.”

Other WorkSafeBC decisions related to COVID-19 include claims from mental health workers, people who work in pharmacies and an occupational safety officer at a construction site. (Kay Nietfeld/dpa via AP Photo)

In another, a mental health support worker claimed she got COVID-19 from a client who lives with his family. The family returned from a vacation in early March 2020 and were all sick. The client hadn’t travelled with them, but he began showing signs of illness shortly after.

In that case, the worker tested negative for COVID-19 the month after suffering severe symptoms. But WorkSafeBC said the negative test did not mean she never had COVID-19.

In yet another case, an occupational safety officer in the construction industry was successful in claiming that he got COVID-19 last March. He worked on a large site that used multiple contractors. And although he tested negative a month later, he had a number of symptoms.

The employer argued that no one else on the job site was diagnosed with COVID-19, but WorkSafeBC accepted that it was “at least as likely as not” that the employee had COVID-19 and that he got it at the workplace.

In a statement, WorkSafeBC says the board received 3,444 COVID-19-related claims up to Jan. 22. Of the ones that have proceeded to the decision stage, 1,777 have been allowed and 954 have been disallowed. 

But the organization says the vast majority of disallowed claims involved “exposure only” — where someone was exposed to the virus, but never developed the illness. If “exposure only” claims are taken out of the equation, WorkSafeBC’s approval rate is 93 per cent.

‘Not a workplace health crisis’

In the lead-up to the introduction of presumptive coverage for COVID-19 claims in B.C., The Employers Forum, a group representing more than 70 employers and employer organizations in all sectors of the economy, wrote a letter objecting to the change.

“Insufficient scientific information and nature of this pandemic means the Workers Compensation System can only effectively address claims on a case-by-case basis,” the letter read.

“This pandemic — like all pandemics — is a public health crisis not a workplace health crisis.”

A spokesperson for the union that represents Air Canada flight attendants says his members (not pictured) have gone from wearing regular uniforms to wearing gowns, gloves and face shields to mitigate the possibility of COVID-19 transmission. (Edward Wang via Reuters)

Ritu Mahil, a labour and employment lawyer with Lawson Lundell LLP and former vice-chair of B.C.’s Labour Relations Board, says she believes the decision involving the flight attendant is significant because it paves the way for many more like it.

“This is one decision. There’s going to be cases about airlines, grocery stores, schools, offices anywhere you come into contact with large groups of people,” she said.

“And the test here is ‘at least as likely as not.'”

‘It puts you at risk’

In the past year, Lesosky says flight attendants have gone from wearing their regular uniforms to finding themselves in body gowns, masks, eye shields and gloves, wielding thermometers and scrubbing with special bars of soap.

“The whole industry for them has changed,” he said.

Lesosky said “quite a few” flight attendants have contracted COVID-19 in the past year. He said the union saw a spike in cases at the beginning of the pandemic and an increase in November, but at the moment they are not hearing of a large number.

Lesosky said he doesn’t have exact numbers because some may not have contacted the union and others may still be going through the appeals process to get workers’ compensation.

He said it is not unusual for companies to appeal positive decisions at workers’ compensation boards. The union currently has appeals of decisions ongoing in Ontario and Manitoba.

But Lesosky said B.C.’s presumptive coverage makes the province the easiest to deal with.

Air Canada said the company has just received the WorkSafeBC decision and is in the process of reviewing it.

“I think what British Columbia has done is the right way to move forward,” Lesosky said.

“Let’s not add insult to injury. They [flight attendants] put themselves out there. They are in the vicinity of COVID, walking through a cabin of a couple of hundred people or even a couple dozen people. It puts you at risk.”

Canada’s new travel restrictions a ‘nail in the coffin’ for airlines, tourism: experts

From Global News – link to source story

By Jon Victor  The Canadian Press | January 29, 2021

Click to play video 'Ottawa unveils new measures to discourage travel'
WATCH ABOVE: Ottawa unveils new measures to discourage travel

New restrictions on flights from the Caribbean and Mexico announced Friday are likely to trigger bankruptcies in Canada’s airline sector and force permanent closures for airports and travel agencies, aviation experts say.

“Today’s announcement really was the nail in the coffin for the airline and tourism business,” said Robert Kokonis, founder and managing director of aviation consulting firm AirTrav Inc. “We’re going to see bankruptcy filings, you might even see a few outright failures.”

John Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University and the head of its Global Aviation Leadership Program, said Sunwing and Transat A.T. Inc. are most at risk of bankruptcy, given their reliance on flights to sun destinations.

Sunwing said it was “categorically untrue” that the airline is at risk of bankruptcy. Spokeswoman Melanie Filipp said that the decision to suspend flights to all sun destinations was based on ongoing collaboration with the government and the Canadian aviation industry.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Transat announced a complete suspension of all Air Transat flights, including to Europe, until April 30 and is repatriating customers to Canada over the next two weeks.

“We will do everything we can to return our customers back to Canada,” said CEO Jean-Marc Eustache.

At WestJet Airlines Ltd. and Air Canada, Gradek said he expected further cuts, including layoffs of between 400 and 500 at WestJet and around 2,000 at Air Canada.

For Air Canada, flights to sun destinations represent around 12 per cent of total revenue, which would translate to around $200 million in lost revenue between now and April 30, Gradek estimated.

The experts’ comments came as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that airlines have reached an agreement with the government to halt flights to the Caribbean and Mexico until April 30.

The government will also require entrants to Canada to quarantine in a hotel on arrival, costing them more than $2,000, Trudeau said. If travellers test negative for COVID-19 after three days, they will be allowed to quarantine at home, albeit under increased surveillance.

If entrants test positive for the virus, they will have to complete their 14-day quarantine at a government facility to ensure they are not carrying a more aggressive variant of the disease, Trudeau said.

Airline bookings had already dropped significantly this month after the federal government announced that travellers entering Canada would have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test before departure. The drop in demand prompted airlines to cut more routes and staff, with Air Canada laying off 1,700 workers this month.

But this latest round of restrictions will limit travel even further, potentially forcing sweeping changes to the landscape of Canada’s aviation industry, Kokonis said.

“This will definitely finish off hundreds of travel agents, if not thousands, across the country,” he added.

Airlines have been in negotiations with the federal government for months over the terms of any sector-specific aid. Ottawa has said that any aid would be contingent upon airlines issuing full refunds to passengers who have had flights cancelled since the start of the pandemic.

On Friday, several industry groups said they hope the restrictions will prompt action by the government on financial relief.

The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s major carriers, reiterated its call for government aid and said the organization looked forward to working with Ottawa on a recovery strategy for the industry.

Unifor called for immediate financial support to prevent a total industry collapse.

“You can’t have one without the other. Further travel restrictions without providing financial support for airline workers is a risk to the very future of Canada’s airline industry,” stated Jerry Dias, the union’s national president.

The Canadian Airports Council said the country’s airports are burning through cash reserves, laying off staff and assuming additional debt with demand down 85 to 90 per cent since spring.

“Today, there is nothing left to cut, yet the restrictions keep piling on,” said president Daniel-Robert Gooch.

The Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors said the sector, especially those running storefront agencies, is in critical need of support to survive.

“I’m very disappointed that they would not have made this announcement today simultaneously with an announcement of aid,” added Kokonis.

The flights that remain, particularly trans-Pacific or transatlantic routes, are more financially important to the airlines than flights to sun destinations because of the contracts that airlines have to ship cargo along with them, Gradek said.

“For those who wonder why all flights cannot simply be stopped, we note that doing so would lead to unintended consequences,” said Robert Giguere, CEO of the Air Canada Pilots Association. “Turning the tap off on aviation would turn off the supply chain of vital goods to Canadians _ including mail, PPE, and pharmaceuticals to name a few.”

“Last week, our pilots operated flights with very few passengers _ less than six per cent of pre-pandemic loads _ but carried millions of kilos of essential goods in the cargo hold into and across Canada,” Giguere said.

Airlines’ revenue from cargo has spiked during the pandemic, and could soon surpass revenue from passenger sales, Gradek said. In the last few months, Air Canada has converted some planes exclusively to carry cargo.

© 2021 The Canadian Press

Air Transat temporarily shutting down, other airlines offer refunds amid new pandemic measures

From CBC News – link to source story

Multiple Canadian airlines agree stop flights to sun destinations until April 30

CBC News · Posted: Jan 29, 2021

Air Transat said Friday it is temporarily suspending all operations, until April 30. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Air Transat said Friday it is temporarily suspending all operations until the end of April, as it and other Canadian airlines adjust to new pandemic measures introduced by the federal government to curb international travel.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the new measures earlier in the day — saying Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat had agreed to suspend service to the Caribbean and Mexico from Sunday until April 30.

However, Air Transat later said on its website that it will suspend all operations, not just flights to sun destinations, starting Friday.

The Montreal-based airline did not say if it was offering refunds, but said it is “working on a repatriation plan” for customers abroad whose return flights were scheduled during that period.

Air Canada said in a statement it will offer refunds to customers whose flights are suspended due to the restrictions if there is “no alternative available” to them. The airline says flights to 15 destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean are affected.

WATCH | Trudeau introduces new restrictions:

Sunwing said it is working to notify customers about changes to their flights, adding those who have their bookings cancelled will be “provided a full refund to the original form of payment.”

The Toronto-based company said its decision to suspend flights “was not made lightly but something we deemed necessary.”

Trudeau on Friday also introduced new mandatory quarantine rules for travellers entering the country.

“With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” he said in Ottawa.

New federal travel restrictions to halt few remaining flights to Winnipeg from U.S.

From CBC News – link to source story

As of 10:59 p.m. on Feb. 3, non-cargo international flights only fly to Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Montreal

Nicholas Frew · CBC News · Jan 29, 2021

Starting next week, only domestic flights will be allowed to land in Winnipeg due to federal travel restrictions. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Even fewer passenger flights will be taking off and landing at the Winnipeg airport as a result of federal travel restrictions coming into effect next week.

Starting 10:59 p.m. CST on Feb. 3, all passenger, private and charter international flights, including from the U.S., will go through airports in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal only. Cargo flights are exempt.

Meanwhile, Canada’s main airlines — Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat — have agreed to cancel flights to the Carribean and Mexico until the end of April.

The federal government is also introducing a quarantine rule where international travellers will be swabbed for COVID-19 upon arrival to one of four Canadian airports, then pay to self-isolate in a government-approved hotel until the results come back.

“It’s disappointing for Winnipeg, where we’re seeing four airports that are going to see that service and we’re not going to have that in Winnipeg anymore,” said Tyler MacAfee, Winnipeg Airport Authority vice president of communications and government relations.

“We have hotels here in Winnipeg that could certainly do the same thing that they’re doing in those cities.”

Delta Air Lines still serves a flight between Winnipeg and Minneapolis, Minn., but that service will be cut in the coming days, said MacAfee.

The travel restrictions aim to reduce importing cases of COVID-19 variants, first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa. The variants are more transmissible — and potentially more deadly — than the original strain of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

There have already been some cases of COVID-19 variants discovered in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. The U.K. variant, also known as the B117 variant, could significantly hinder Ontario’s ability to curb the spread of COVID-19, new modelling suggests.

Manitoba has also closed its borders for the same reason. As of Friday, most travellers coming to Manitoba must self-isolate for two weeks.

Passenger traffic plummets at YWG

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly hampered passenger traffic at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

Passenger traffic from October 2020 to December 2020 dropped by nearly 87 per cent compared to the same stretch in 2019, according to 4th quarter results released by the Winnipeg Airport Authority Friday.

Traffic last fall also dipped by 27 per cent compared to the previous quarter, the release says.

Passenger traffic at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport was nearly 87 per cent lower last fall than it was in fall 2019. (Trevor Brine/CBC)

Cargo traffic however, is increasing. Shipments of the COVID-19 vaccine are coming through the Winnipeg airport, but many packages are as well, the release says.

In the final quarter of 2020, the number of cargo planes landing at the Winnipeg airport increased by 7.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2019, the release says.

Though the figures have yet to be audited, the airport authority is reporting revenues of $14.4 million last quarter — a steady drop from $33.9 million in same time period as 2019.

The airline industry, including the Winnipeg airport, have tried making air travel safer for passengers throughout the pandemic, said MacAfee, citing mask mandates, stricter cleaning regimens and installing ultraviolet lights on escalators.

But with further restrictions being implemented to dissuade the public from travelling, airports need financial support to stay afloat, he said.

“It’s not as simple as flipping a switch and saying, ‘O.K., now everything start up again,'” said MacAfee. “It’s going to take time.”

It can also be tough to get flight routes back in service once they’re discontinued, he added.

With files from Cory Funk

Regina airport seeking bailout as airlines suspend flights to sun destinations

From CBC News – link from source story

The Regina International Airport is projected to lose up to $9M in 2021, CEO says

Mickey Djuric · CBC News · Posted: Jan 29, 2021

The Regina International Airport is looking for financial aid from the federal government as further travel restrictions continue to have an impact on the airport authority’s finances. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

The Regina International Airport is likely to face further challenges following Friday’s announcement by Canadian airlines that are cancelling service to sun destinations.

Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat have agreed to suspend service to the Caribbean and Mexico until the end of April, as the federal government introduces new mandatory quarantine rules in an effort to fight the spread of COVID-19.

While there have been no direct flights from Regina to sun destinations during the pandemic, the loss of service will still affect Regina air travellers. 

“Even though we have these massive reductions in our passenger demand, we do still have a little bit of service left to Canadian hubs like Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto,” said James Bogusz, president and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority. 

“This will further erode the demand to go to those hubs if those customers were planning to depart from one of those destinations.”

Ed Sims, president and CEO of WestJet, said the federal government asked the airlines to temporarily halt some of their flights.

“The government asked, and we agreed,” said Sims.

“While we know that air travel is responsible for less than two per cent of cases since the start of the crisis, and even less today, we recognize the government of Canada’s ask is a precautionary measure.”

WATCH | Prime minister introduces new restrictions for international travel:

‘Don’t have much left to cut’

Bogusz says the Regina Airport Authority has been petitioning the federal government for months for some financial support. 

“We’ve already done our part,” he said. 

Passenger traffic at the Regina airport has been reduced to 10 per cent of normal, resulting in over 30 per cent of airport staff getting laid off, Bogusz said.

“We’ve burned through our cash, we’re now working through our credit line,” he said. “So we don’t have much left to cut, frankly.”

The airport is also losing its ability to self-fund its operations.

“We can not sell enough parking or sandwiches, and we certainly don’t have enough planes landing to be able to meet our most basic operating needs.”

The federal government has provided the Regina airport with a wage subsidy and rent relief, but Bogusz says it’s not enough. He did not disclose how much aid the airport is looking for, but said the airport has lost millions since the COVID-19 pandemic started. 

‘We can not sell enough parking or sandwiches, and we certainly don’t have enough planes landing to be able to meet our most basic operating needs,’ said James Bogusz, president and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority. (Neil Cochrane/CBC)

“On the operations side, we’ve lost well over $6 million in 2020. We haven’t done our year-end, but we’re projected to lose $8 to $9 million in 2021 operating revenue. That’s what we [use to] pay our power bills, that’s how we pay our staff, that’s how we pay our property taxes, amongst all our other expenses.”

Aviation industry pleads for aid

On Thursday, aviation industry representatives pleaded with MPs on the House of Commons transportation committee for direct aid for alines.  

Mike Mueller, senior vice-president of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, warned that Canadian companies would struggle to compete in the future with businesses in countries like France, the U.S., and Germany — which have spent billions of dollars on bailouts for airlines and related companies.

Bogusz says airports are also going to need some type of bailout in order to survive. 

“We’re asking the federal government to support those core operations costs just until they can start encouraging Canadians to travel again,” Bogusz said.

“But until then there is no other source of revenue we can pull, and as we fall further into debt it becomes an impossible situation for our airport, because those debt levels are going to be nearly impossible to repay.”

WATCH | Airline workers on Parliament Hill call for help from federal government:

With files from Sharon Gerein, Catharine Tunney and Ryan Patrick Jones

Transport Canada: Expansion of international flight restrictions at Canadian airports

From: Transport Canada 29 January 2021

Transport Canada

Backgrounder

The Government of Canada is introducing strict new measures to prevent the further introduction of COVID-19 throughout Canada. The government and Canada’s airlines have reached an agreement to suspend all flights to and from Mexico and Caribbean countries until April 30, 2021. This will be in effect as of January 31, 2021.

Further, in March 2020, to more effectively allocate resources (e.g., Public Health Agency of Canada officials) at the border, the Minister of Transport approved flight restrictions to funnel scheduled international commercial passenger flights to Canada’s four largest airports: Montreal-Trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, Calgary International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport.

Flights from the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean, as well as from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, were exempted from this restriction and continued to operate and land at other Canadian airports.

To further strengthen measures already in place, and based on public health advice provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Minister of Transport is expanding the scope of the flight restrictions made under the Aeronautics Act.

Effective midnight (11:59 PM EST) February 3, 2021, the restrictions will be expanded to include the following flights to Canada which will also be required to land at the four Canadian airports noted above:

  • Scheduled commercial passenger flights from the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America;
  • International business / private passenger flights from all countries; and
  • International charter passenger flights from all countries.

Flights from Saint-Pierre-et Miquelon and cargo-only international flights will still be exempt from this new requirement.

These changes, implemented through a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM), remain in effect until further notice.

The Government of Canada continues to work closely with the airline industry and airports to implement the changes.

Following the federal government’s announcement – Transat temporarily suspends all its scheduled flights and launches an operation to repatriate its customers

MONTREAL, Jan. 29, 2021 /CNW Telbec/ – Following the Canadian government’s request not to travel to Mexico and the Caribbean and the imposition of new quarantine and COVID-19 screening measures, Transat A.T. Inc. announces today the complete suspension of all scheduled Air Transat flights until April 30 and the repatriation of its customers to Canada. This operation is expected to take place over the next two weeks.

“We are putting in place the measures requested by the Canadian government, including not travelling to the South. This forces us to temporarily suspend all our flights, including to Europe,” said Jean-Marc Eustache, President and Chief Executive Officer of Transat. “We will do everything we can to return our customers back to Canada. We obviously share the government’s objective to protect Canadians from COVID-19, including the new variants, and this is what all of our personnel have been doing in recent months, particularly on board our aircraft, with a comprehensive program of adapted sanitary measures.”

Repatriation flights program

Air Transat will operate several dozen flights over the next two weeks to return its customers to Canada. Transat customers scheduled to return to the country between now and February 13 will keep their original flight, while customers whose flights are cancelled will automatically be redirected to another Air Transat flight. Transat’s priority is to get everyone home.

Until April 30, customers who are unable to travel due to the cancellation of their flight will be refunded in the same method of payment they used for their booking.

Federal government support is crucial

In light of the disastrous situation in which the entire industry finds itself, Transat reiterates the importance for the federal government to put in place the sector-specific financial assistance announced to support its industry and the investments it has made in recent years, not to mention the tens of thousands of workers in the sector who have lost their jobs. The airline industry is highly competitive, and international carriers from other countries have benefited from significant support measures from their governments since the beginning of the pandemic. This is creating a considerable imbalance that has hurt the competitiveness of Canada’s airlines for months and threatens their survival. Moreover, the entire Canadian economy will be deprived of the vital and strategic contribution of the airline and aeronautics industry when the recovery comes.

From the outset of the pandemic, Transat has implemented a series of measures to safeguard the company and its cash flow, including temporary layoffs affecting 75% of its staff. Unfortunately, the temporary shutdown of operations has resulted in further layoffs of flight crews and support staff.