Air Canada paid $10M in COVID-19 bonuses to top execs while negotiating gov’t rescue plan

From Global News – link to source story and VIDEOS

By Sean Boynton, Global News | May 31, 2021

Click to play video: 'Trudeau calls Air Canada aid package a ‘good and fair deal’'
Trudeau calls Air Canada aid package a ‘good and fair deal’ – Apr 13, 2021

Air Canada paid its top executives and managers a combined $10 million in bonuses tied to the COVID-19 pandemic late last year, despite the airline losing billions of dollars and cutting thousands of jobs in 2020.

The bonuses, which were outlined in the airline’s annual proxy circular to shareholders, came with special stock rewards that were meant to compensate those executives for salary cuts they took as the pandemic wreaked havoc on the travel industry. Yet they also came as Air Canada was negotiating a multibillion-dollar rescue package with the federal government — one that caps future executive compensation.

The airline justified the bonuses and stock awards to shareholders by saying the senior executive team “reacted urgently, decisively and skillfully to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the company.”

Those actions included slashing over 20,000 employees from Air Canada’s workforce, a reduction of more than 50 per cent. The airline also received $656 million through the government’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program last year to keep some remaining employees on the payroll.

“And with equal vigor, the leadership team played offence,” the airline continued in its message to shareholders, highlighting the safety and business measures it undertook to ensure the company can bounce back from the pandemic.

“We believe we must retain and motivate our senior leaders to help Air Canada recover as quickly as possible,” the airline said, adding its “compensation decisions” would help with that goal.

Wesley Lesosky, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ Air Canada component, said in a statement to Global News that his members that were laid off have not benefited from the CEWS, and criticized the airline for continuing to pay out bonuses amid the pandemic.

“We’re disappointed the company was finding ways to keep paying bonuses to executives, while at the same time cutting off a lifeline for thousands of my members by denying them access to the federal wage subsidy,” he said.

“Our members were left out to dry, and the federal government stood by and let it happen.”

Click to play video: 'Air Canada aid package gives government equity stake in airline: Freeland'Air Canada aid package gives government equity stake in airline: Freeland – Apr 12, 2021

In April, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland and Transport Canada announced a $5.9-billion federal bailout plan for Air Canada, largely built on repayable loans to the airline in order to rescue it from pandemic-related financial collapse.

By the end of 2020, Air Canada’s operating revenue had plummeted 70 per cent to $5.8 billion, from $19.1 billion in 2019. Air Canada shares also lost more than 50 per cent of their market value over the course of last year.

Last spring, the airline announced that its then-chief executive Calin Rovinescu and deputy CEO Michael Rousseau would waive 100 per cent of their salaries for April, May and June of 2020, and cut their salaries in half for the remainder of the year. Three other top named executives took 50 per cent salary cuts for three months, then 20 per cent cuts for the rest of 2020.

The cuts amounted to combined losses of $766,723 for the five executives, including $490,000 for Rovinescu.

On the eve of those executive salaries being fully restored at the start of 2021, Air Canada gave those same five executives special “stock appreciation units” that would serve as an “opportunity to recuperate their foregone salary,” the company told shareholders.

Rovinescu received 21,398 stock appreciation units, which Air Canada estimated to be worth $168,396 on a payout based on the increase of Air Canada’s share price over the next two years. A payout will not occur if the price dips below the average set at the end of 2020.

The $10 million in “COVID-19 Pandemic Mitigation” bonuses, meanwhile, were based on a new executive compensation program centred on pandemic-era goals of customer service and cost-cutting, among other criteria. That program replaced the existing compensation guidelines that heavily valued profitability to determine bonuses.

Because of “management’s exceptional performance” in meeting the new goals, Air Canada’s board approved a $20-million bonus package for management and executives, down from the $45 million that would have been approved under the previous program.

Only $10 million was paid out, however, including $723,000 to Rovinescu and a combined $1.116 million to the other four named executives.

Air Canada also determined that losses from the pandemic would impact its long-term incentive plan for executives, eliminating payouts for the past three years of performance-based share units and stock options. As a result, 2020’s results were dropped from the formula to ensure payouts would still move forward.

The company justified this move to shareholders by arguing that losing the payouts “could potentially create an important ‘retention’ issue thereby putting the organization at risk at a time when we most need our key talents to ensure our survival and future recovery for the benefits of our shareholders.”

Overall, Rovinescu earned a reported $9.26 million in total compensation last year, down from $12.87 million in 2019.

Rovinescu has since retired and officially stepped down on Feb. 15 of this year, getting replaced by deputy CEO Rousseau.

Click to play video: 'All airlines eligible for loan to help refund customers impacted by COVID-19 pandemic: Freeland'All airlines eligible for loan to help refund customers impacted by COVID-19 pandemic: Freeland – Apr 12, 2021

Over the course of pandemic-hit 2020, Air Canada dramatically reduced its domestic and international flight network and pulled out of several smaller and regional airports across Canada. It also shed 79 older planes from its fleet and cancelled orders for 22 aircraft.

The airline stayed afloat through a series of financing and liquidation moves that the company says totalled $6.780 billion in 2020.

The federal rescue package announced in April saw Ottawa provide Air Canada $5.37 billion in repayable loans, including a $1.4 billion credit facility that the airline can draw from to refund customers whose flights were impacted by the pandemic. The government also purchased a $500-million equity investment in the airline.

As part of the package, executive compensation will be capped at $1 million until those loans are fully paid back with interest.

The airline has also promised to not cut any more jobs from its workforce as it continues to recover from the pandemic.

In an email, Katherine Cuplinskas, a spokesperson for Freeland’s office, said questions about executive compensation prior to the agreement being signed should be directed to Air Canada.

The government says the cap on executive compensation is in place from when the deal was announced in April until 12 months after all loans are repaid.

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

NAV CANADA partners with NORAD for air defence training

26 May 2021 – NAV Canada

North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) routinely conducts exercises to ensure the defence of North American airspace.

Civilian and military agencies must work closely together when Canada must respond to potential air threats in times of duress. Military fighter jet pilots work with civilian air traffic controllers and air defence control units to undertake aircraft identification and interception in high-density airspace.

On May 26, 2021, NAV CANADA partnered with NORAD and other government agencies to conduct exercise AMALGAM HAWK 21, a military operation that tests air incident response protocols and inter-agency coordination between Canada and US organizations.

The annual NORAD exercise exemplifies a high degree of coordination involving:

  • Continental U.S. NORAD Region
  • Canadian NORAD Region
  • Canadian Air Defence Sector
  • Eastern Air Defense Sector
  • RCMP
  • Federal Aviation Administration
  • U.S. Transportation Security Administration
  • Transport Canada
  • Boston ARTCC
  • Montreal Airport Authority

“These international training exercises require a highly coordinated response and prepare everyone involved to be ready to respond in the event of aerospace threats to North America, “ said Erik Doucet, NAV CANADA’s Manager of Military and Regulatory Coordination.

NORAD is a bi-national organization responsible for ensuring air sovereignty and air defence of the airspace of Canada and the United States.

“NORAD is the force of last resort to protect the citizens of Canada and the United States from any threats in the air domain. We must ensure that North America is not an “easy target” for malign actors or actions. In order to test responses, systems and equipment, we routinely conduct carefully planned and executed exercises, such as Exercise AMALGAM HAWK, year-round in various weather conditions and with a variety of scenarios, including airspace restriction violations, hijackings and responding to unknown aircraft, in order to maintain NORAD’s rapid response capabilities, ” said Major-General Eric Kenny, Commander, Canadian NORAD Region.

While NORAD is responsible for the day to day security of North American airspace, US and Canadian law-enforcement agencies and civilian government agencies on both sides of the border play a critical role in maintaining the safety of our airspace.  

Volatus Aerospace Appoints OmniView Tech as its Canadian Distributor


TORONTO, May 31, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Volatus Aerospace has appointed OmniView Tech as its exclusive distributor of the FIXAR vertical takeoff and landing commercial drones in Canada. Volatus recently announced that it was beginning the manufacture of up to 1,200 units of the innovative RPAS per year at its new facility at the Lake Simcoe Regional Airport in Oro, Ontario.

“This aircraft is both technologically superior and simple in its launch and land use of unique, fixed angle rotors,” comments Glen Lynch, CEO of Volatus Aerospace, “we are proudly going to manufacture this RPAS in Canada and provide an excellent, economic option for LiDAR and photogrammetric survey and mapping missions. We have chosen OmniView as our distribution partner because they are the largest, most experienced RPAS sales and servicing organization in the country. Our customers will benefit from the best customer service available.”

“The FIXAR product delivers a solution many of our customers are looking for and need. It is a commercial workhorse that combines the best characteristics of heavy-duty quadcopters and fixed-wing RPAS,” said Johann Reandino, CEO of OmniView Tech. “We are pleased to have been appointed by and working with Volatus Aerospace. We know there is much more to come from the relationship in terms of additional product and training options.”

The first configuration to be made available is the FIXAR 007. Its two-kilogram (4.4lbs) payload capacity and swappable payload module makes the RPAS ideal for a multitude of applications including mapping/photogrammetry, laser scanning (LiDAR), last-mile delivery, precision agriculture, critical infrastructure monitoring and much more.

About Omniview: OmniView Tech is North America’s leading full-service drone solutions provider. Serving the consumer, professional, and enterprise markets, OmniView Tech enables public/private organizations to leverage drone technology to enhance their efficiency and operational effectiveness. The company has launched many drone programs by providing the full suite of end-to-end services:

  • Pre-sales consultations
  • Hardware procurement
  • Equipment set up
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Training and certifications
  • Post-sales technical support

Equipped with the ability to distribute hardware on a national scale, certified technicians, and sales staff on-site, OmniView Tech represents the industry’s top manufacturers to provide best-in-class service to its clients.

About Volatus Aerospace: Volatus Aerospace is a vertically integrated drone technologies solution provider dedicated to driving the full potential of RPAS technologies throughout industries in the Americas. Activities include developing drone technologies, RPAS design and manufacturing, equipment sales and support, training, imaging and inspection services and asset management.

Air Show Atlantic cancels this year’s event, blames uncertainty around COVID-19

From The Star Vancouver – link to source story

By The Canadian Press | Sat., May 29, 2021

HALIFAX – Organizers of Air Show Atlantic have announced the cancellation of this year’s event because of ongoing uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The air show was scheduled for August 28 to 29 in Debert, N.S.

In a news release, the Nova Scotia International Air Show Association says it has cancelled this year’s production because it can’t create a “safe, executable event” within the time required.

Organizers say they can’t be sure that they will be able to bring performers into the Atlantic travel bubble once it opens.

They also can’t currently get assurances from Nova Scotia health officials on what restrictions and quarantine requirements will be in place.

They say most critically, they aren’t in a financial position to risk mounting a show that is largely dependent on gate revenues and good weather.

Organizers say they want to be around to produce air shows for decades and as a not-for-profit, they must “err on the side of caution and live to fight another day.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2021.

Flair Airlines Extends Domestic Schedule into 2022

The growing ULCC has released its Winter 2021/22 schedule for sale with fares starting from as low as $19

Edmonton, Alberta, May 27, 2021 – Flair Airlines, Canada’s only independent ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC), has expanded its schedule with flights to domestic destinations now on sale until March 2022.  With 24 routes and over 650,000 seats on sale, Winter 2021/22 will be Flair’s biggest ever winter schedule.

The winter schedule is part of Flair’s expansion of service to bring low fare air travel to more Canadians. The airline has 13 new aircraft on order joining the fleet in 2021 and 2022.

“We understand how keen Canadians are to travel again and our winter schedule will provide affordable air travel options to help connect the many families and friends who have been apart for the past year,” says Garth Lund, Chief Commercial Officer. “With fares available from as low as $19 and new aircraft joining the fleet, Flair will continue its expansion into the winter season.”

Bookings are now available for travel through March 26, 2022.

Take a look at the new A220 full size cabin display from Airbus…..

From Air101 – link to source story and video

28 May 2021 | Written by Jason Shaw 

One United Family

This week, the Airspace Customer Showroom (ACS) situated in Toulouse, France unveiled its latest A220 full size mock-up, showcasing Airbus’ cabin expertise inside this unique customer showroom.

“Today marks an important development in the ongoing career of the A220 as a member of the Airbus family, all together in the Airspace Customer Showroom. We are looking forward to showing the A220 mockup to our customers who are already extremely enthusiastic to visit,” said Christine de Gagné, Airline Marketing

Link to Airbus Video

Moving forward

Seven years after its maiden flight, the first flight test vehicle “FTV1” has been rehabilitated by Airbus teams to become part of an iconic showcase; celebrating the successes of the A220 as part of the family.  “FTV1” was the very first aircraft assembled in Mirabel between 2012-2013 and released into service after some 760 flight hours on the clock, opening another historic chapter for this aircraft.

The layout of the mock-up

The interior layout of the A220 cabin was an exciting challenge for the Airbus teams to make it alluring for customers. “In a ground mock-up, the cabin interior must be adaptive and versatile. We need to think about the cabin configuration features, such as light and ambience, enabling customers to experiment with different inspiring scenarios for passengers” explains Christine. 

The mock-up will also be of great importance to both customers who have already selected the A220 and for Airbus teams dedicated to customizing the cabin. Airlines who are in the final configuration phase of their aircraft, will be able to test their lighting and seat selection in the mock-up before the delivery of their aircraft.

Ready to welcome customers

Fully operational, the A220 mock-up will be able to benefit from the expertise of the Airspace Customer Showroom to support the airline’s needs. Every year, the facility  hosts around 1000 visits – an average of 250 meetings with airlines, providing a powerful tool to assist customers, accelerate decision-making and demonstrate cabin innovations offered by the A220 within the Airbus family.

Canada’s Air Connectivity and Competitiveness at Risk: Report

Without more active engagement by the federal government, Canadian travellers at risk to shoulder pandemic-related costs.

Ottawa, ON, May 27, 2021 Without a strong federal commitment to a comprehensive aviation recovery plan, both the air sector and Canada’s overall competitiveness face considerable risk, according to aviation and business industry leaders who participated in a May 27 forum that examined post-COVID air connectivity and passenger costs.

Air transportation is an important industry in Canada, facilitating the movement of people and cargo,  and is a catalyst for other industries such as tourism. The sector currently accounts for 256,000 direct jobs and contributes $23.4 billion in direct Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The webinar brought together leaders from the aviation and business communities to focus public attention on the importance of an air sector recovery and why it matters to every Canadian traveller, business and community.

The starting point for the discussions was a newly released whitepaper, Holding Pattern: Canada Needs a Swift Recovery and Competitive Air Sector produced for the Canadian Airports Council, which examined the issues that will affect air recovery in Canada, including increased costs to travellers and reduced connectivity.  The paper noted that a 25 percent increase in the price of travel would lead to decline of 20 percent in passenger demand.  In turn this will impact connectivity, which has plummeted by as much as 90 percent in some regions, while leaving other regions isolated with effectively no service at all.

“Passenger throughput at Canada’s airports sits currently at roughly 10 percent of the levels seen in 2019,”  said Joyce Carter, CAC Chair and President and CEO of Halifax International Airport Authority. “Until the lost connectivity is restored, many regions will not see the economic benefits associated with air travel – including the spin-off benefits for other industries.”

The cost of maintaining community access with almost no revenue has forced Canada’s airports into a deep financial hole that the government has yet to fully address. COVID-19 travel restrictions have already led to airport losses of $5.5 billion in revenue to the end of this year.  On top of that, airports have accumulated an additional $2.8 billion in new debt directly related to operating during the pandemic.  This new debt, and its carrying costs, will have to be repaid, piling on additional costs on the price of air travel.

According to the whitepaper, the air sector’s current financial position and resulting cost-saving measures are likely to have an impact on the ability of Canadian airlines and airports to compete with their U.S. and foreign counterparts.  This situation poses a real threat, as other major aviation countries are already on their way to recovery, while Canada’s borders have remained closed to international travelers since March 2020.

Webinar participants identified several actions that would reduce the risk that accessing flights or destinations would be more difficult or more expensive for that critical connectivity which will be required for passengers and cargo alike.

Summing up the discussions, Bob Sartor, President and CEO of The Calgary Airport Authority said “Aviation is the connective tissue that helps hold this huge country together and keeps our economy growing. Canadians need a dynamic and financially competitive aviation sector to reap the rewards which will come with a recovery.”

Link to the whitepaper

About the Canadian Airports Council

The Canadian Airports Council (CAC), a division of Airports Council International-North America, is the voice for Canada’s airports community. Its 54 members represent more than 100 airports, including all of the privately operated National Airports System (NAS) airports and many municipal airports.

Canada’s locally managed and not-for-profit airports are essential community assets.  In 2019, they supported 194,000 direct jobs, contributed $19 billion to GDP and $48 billion in direct economic outputs. They also remitted $6.9 billion in taxes to municipal, provincial and federal governments.

Federal government funding repairs to Whitehorse airport

From Yukon News – link to source story

An Air North flight sits on the apron at the Whitehorse airport. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

An Air North flight sits on the apron at the Whitehorse airport. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

Upgrades are needed on the tarmac

HALEY RITCHIE | May. 26, 2021

The federal government is contributing $3.8 million toward upgrades at Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport.

“This investment will help ensure continued safe and reliable airport operations for Yukoners, many of whom depend on their air travel not only for personal travel, but also for access to routine and emergency medical care in larger centres,” said Yukon MP Larry Bagnell in a statement.

The funding will allow for the rehabilitation of the taxiway, which is the path an aircraft uses in transit to the takeoff runway. The funds will also help with concrete apron paving, in order to refresh the area where airplanes are parked when not flying.

The project is one of 86 projects at 63 Canadian airports selected for funding in 2021.

Other projects include over $17 million dollars to rehabilitate a runway in Fort Nelson, British Columbia, more than $1.1 million in Manitoba to install wildlife control fencing and $58,000 for airfield drainage improvements at the Prince Albert Airport in Saskatchewan.

The funding is part of the Airports Capital Assistance Program, which recently received a top-up of funding and expansion of eligible airports for a two year time period.

The fund is meant to support airports with rehabilitating surfaces, improving lighting and electrical systems and purchasing snow and ice removal equipment.

“These investments will improve access to safe, reliable and efficient air transportation options, and will help us deliver our promise to build safer, healthier and stronger communities across Canada. This is more important than ever as we reopen our economies affected by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra.

In 2014 the Yukon Government awarded a $3.5 million contract to Norcope Enterprises in order to replace 250 concrete apron panels at the airport. A year later defects in the job prompted the government to launch a lawsuit seeking the cost of the work.

Norcope countered with a lawsuit of their own which blamed permafrost shifting for cracked pavement.

WestJet Statement on Canada’s Border Measures Report

CALGARY, AB, May 27, 2021 /CNW/ – WestJet welcomes the findings outlined by the Health Canada Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel in the Border Measures Report released today and thanks the panel for their efforts in bringing forward this report.

“Over the past 15 months, WestJet has been requesting science-based travel guidance and this report represents a responsible path forward,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “These findings are evidence-based recommendations that are proportionate and reduce risks. We ask that the government immediately prepare a safe restart plan based on this report and current global policies. With vaccinations ramping up, Canadians need to know they can travel once again.”

Outlined in the report and demonstrated successfully by the Alberta Testing Pilot Program, YVR’s Pre-Departure Testing Program and the McMaster Study, programs in which WestJet was an active participant, the relationship between testing and quarantine can safely evolve based on science, data and vaccination levels.

As vaccination rates continue to rise, we are optimistic that based off the report’s recommendations, Canadians can look forward to the easement of onerous border measures. WestJet will continue to advocate for policy changes that support Canada’s recovery and the restoration of more than 750,000 travel and tourism industry jobs.

WestJet remains committed to building back even stronger for the betterment of all Canadians. A healthy WestJet will help lead a stronger recovery, increasing competition and consumer choice while lowering the cost of travel for Canadians, all while safely anchoring Canada’s vital air travel and tourism sectors. 

About WestJet 
In 25 years of serving Canadians, WestJet has cut airfares in half and increased the flying population in Canada to more than 50 per cent. WestJet launched in 1996 with three aircraft, 250 employees and five destinations, growing over the years to more than 180 aircraft, 14,000 employees and more than 100 destinations in 23 countries, pre-pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic the WestJet Group of Companies has built a layered framework of safety measures to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All hygiene program. During this time, WestJet has maintained its status as one of the top-10 on-time airlines in North America as named by Cirium.