Flight attendants exhausted by COVID-19 pandemic-fuelled rise in passenger bad behaviour

From The Globe and Mail – link to source story

AMANDA STEPHENSON, CALGARY, ALBERTA | THE CANADIAN PRESS | SEPTEMBER 30, 2021

Canadian flight attendants say they are being subjected to unacceptable levels of abuse from passengers as the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on. NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Passenger disobedience, rudeness, and aggressive behaviour is on the rise and directly impacting the health and well-being of airline employees, according to unions representing flight attendants at the country’s major airlines.

“Our people go to work and they anticipate having altercations with our guests on board,” said Chris Rauenbusch, an active cabin crew employee with Calgary-based WestJet Airlines Ltd. and president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 4070. “Some people have mental health conditions and need to take leaves due to these circumstances. It’s not what we signed up for as flight attendants, but it’s unfortunately become our new reality.”

“Every time you approach someone you have in your mind that this could be stage one of a seriously escalating situation,” said Troy Winters, senior officer for health and safety with CUPE National. The union represents more than 15,000 flight attendants at nine different Canadian airlines, including WestJet, Air Canada and Transat.

“It’s not as bad as it is in the States, there’s not as much serious violence, but we certainly do have folks who are overly belligerent.”

While reports of increasingly disruptive behaviour in recent months on American flights have prompted calls for U.S. lawmakers to crack down on the problem, data suggests the problem is escalating in Canada as well. Flight attendants say many of the problems stem from passengers who refuse to obey the federal requirement to wear a face mask on board.

According to Transport Canada, incidences of passenger non-compliance with the mask mandate spiked over the summer. Airlines reported 330 passengers to the regulator for refusing to wear a mask during July and August, more than twice the number of incidents reported in April and May.

The rise can be partially attributed to increased passenger volumes as airlines reinstated routes and Canadians began to travel again over the summer. But Winters said he doesn’t believe that’s the only factor at play. As the pandemic drags on, tempers and anxieties are flaring, and Winters said it doesn’t help that different provincial governments have been sending different messages.

“You’ve got different jurisdictions like Alberta and Saskatchewan, in the summer they declared the pandemic’s over and you don’t need to wear masks any more. So folks coming out of those regions are saying ‘I don’t need to do it,’ ” he said.

“It’s an issue that’s not going away,” Rauenbusch said. “I do anticipate as we get into Thanksgiving and Christmas travel season, we’ll see a little more of what we’re seeing in the States.”

When airlines report an incident of non-compliance to Transport Canada, the regulator has a range of enforcement measures at its disposal, from letters of warning for first time offences to monetary penalties of up to $5,000. Since September of last year, Transport Canada has levied fines against 36 passengers for failing to wear a mask.

Criminal charges are also possible in the event that a passenger uses abusive language, issues verbal or physical threats towards employees or other passengers, or is otherwise deemed to be “unruly.” Though not all such cases are related to mask wearing or other public health requirements, documented instances of “unruly” passengers on Canadian aircraft have been disproportionately high during the pandemic. There were 73 recorded cases in 2020, only a 25 per cent drop from the year before in spite of the fact that passenger volumes declined by more than 70 per cent.

Flight attendants say the official numbers actually downplay the seriousness of the situation. While Transport Canada asks airlines to report every instance of passengers refusing to wear a mask, Winters said in reality crew members only report the most severe cases.

“It’s definitely under-reported,” he said. “Everyone that you have to ask three times to put their mask back on isn’t getting written up, because then you’d be writing forms from the time you got off the flight until a couple days later.”

WestJet said it has issued 118 travel bans against passengers for refusing to wear a mask since the airline introduced its “zero tolerance” policy in September of 2020.

“Since January 1, 2021, we have safely flown more than three million guests who are doing an excellent job adhering to the regulations to ensure the safety of all,” said WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell in an e-mail. “The total cases of non-compliance represent less than 0.02 per cent of travellers.”

Neither Air Canada, Transat AT and Porter Airlines Inc. declined to provide company-specific statistics on mask-wearing or disruptive passenger behaviour.

Pandemic-fuelled rise in passenger bad behaviour taking toll on flight attendants

From City News 1130 – link to source story

BY THE CANADIAN PRESS | Posted Sep 30, 2021

Grounded Air Canada planes sit on the tarmac at Pearson International Airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

SUMMARY

  • Concerns for flight attendant’s mental health is growing in wake of incidents of abuse
  • Several airlines have resumed service in recent months, but with increased restrictions
  • Videos of passengers refusing to follow the rules have gone viral online

CALGARY — Canadian flight attendants say they are being subjected to unacceptable levels of abuse from passengers as the COVID-19 pandemic grinds on.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees says flight attendants noticed an increase in bad behaviour over the summer. They say verbal altercations with passengers are common and affect flight attendants’ mental health.

Many of the problems stem from passengers who refuse to obey the federal requirement to wear a face mask on board. Transport Canada data shows reported incidences of passenger non-compliance with the mask mandate spiked over the summer.

Airlines reported 330 passengers to the regulator for refusing to wear a mask during July and August, more than twice the number of incidents reported in April and May.

But CUPE says the numbers actually downplay the problem. They say only the most serious incidents are reported to the regulator, but flight attendants deal with confrontations and rudeness every day.

Calgary-based WestJet Airlines says it has issued travel bans against 118 passengers for mask non-compliance since September of last year.

Bombardier Announces Firm Order for 20 Challenger 3500 Business Jets

  • Demand for Challenger 3500 aircraft accelerates at full throttle with Bombardier’s largest business jet order of 2021
  • With innovative technology, fully redesigned cabin and sustainably minded features, the Challenger 3500 business jet is the stunning evolution of Bombardier’s hugely successful Challenger 350 aircraft

MONTRÉAL, Sept. 30, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Bombardier is pleased to announce a firm order for 20 Challenger 3500 business jets to a customer who wishes to remain confidential. This is Bombardier’s largest business jet transaction of 2021, representing a value of $534 million U.S., based on current list pricing.

“This significant order comes just days after the unveiling of the Challenger 3500 business jet, quickly reinforcing the supremacy of this platform in the super mid-size market. The new Challenger 3500 aircraft is ideally suited to meet a growing demand for business travel,” said Peter Likoray, Senior Vice President, Sales, New Aircraft, Bombardier. “It offers an unmatched combination of performance, advantageous operating costs, cabin experience, innovation and a smooth ride – the perfect package for fleet operators, corporate flight departments and individual customers, including those looking to enter the business jet market.”

An evolution of the best-selling Challenger 350 aircraft, the Challenger 3500 business jet was unveiled on Sept. 14. This new business jet boasts a redesigned interior featuring the patented Nuage seat, a masterpiece of comfort inherited from Bombardier’s large-cabin Global aircraft. The stunning new passenger spaces offer a host of new technologies, including the industry’s first voice-controlled cabin, wireless chargers throughout the cabin, and the only 24-inch, 4K displays in its class. The altitude in the cabin is 31% lower than that of its predecessor.

In the flight deck, the Challenger 3500 aircraft has more baseline features than any of its competitors, with a standard auto-throttle system to further enhance the experience for Challenger pilots.

The Challenger 3500 aircraft was designed through a sustainable lens and will be the first business jet in the super mid-size segment with an Environmental Product Declaration, an open book on the aircraft’s environmental footprint throughout its entire life cycle. Customers also have the option of furnishing their cabin with high-end sustainable materials. Other sustainably minded initiatives for this aircraft include the introduction of the first eco app* solution in business aviation, and a carbon neutral flight test program.

The Challenger 3500 business jet is expected to enter service in the second half of 2022.

About Bombardier
Bombardier is a global leader in aviation, creating innovative and game-changing planes. Our products and services provide world-class experiences that set new standards in passenger comfort, energy efficiency, reliability and safety.

Headquartered in Montréal, Canada, Bombardier is present in more than 12 countries including its production/engineering sites and its customer support network. The Corporation supports a worldwide fleet of more than 4,900 aircraft in service with a wide variety of multinational corporations, charter and fractional ownership providers, governments and private individuals.

News and information is available at bombardier.com or follow us on Twitter @Bombardier. For more information about our industry-leading business jets, visit the Bombardier Business Aircraft website.

Porter Airlines vs Air Canada: Flying to and from a reopened Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport

From The AU Review – link to source story

Larry Heath | September 30, 2021

Earlier this month, Toronto’s central Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport re-opened for the first time to travellers since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the airport’s primary commercial carriers, Porter Airlines, resumed domestic services.

The airport – which I’ve previously called one of the world’s most convenient – is unique due to its location and size. Its complete commercial closure was also a rarity on an international level – though given the length of the pandemic, Porter’s decision to shut down services completely (not just at this airport) proved a sound decision.

My flight out of Billy Bishop Airport on opening weekend though was the sole Air Canada route out of the terminal, YTZ to YUL (Montreal, Quebec).

The flight to Montreal was an easy affair – just minutes through security, with no notable differences to the experience pre-pandemic. Surprisingly no vaccination checks, and no temperature check (as I recently experienced on a trip to Vancouver) – though sanitisation stations are everywhere as are mask reminders – the latter being a feature both in the lounge and on board Air Canada’s Bombardier Q400.

The departures terminal – which no longer features complimentary snacks and drinks as it did once upon a time – had a Balzac Coffee shop and a Newsagency open for the 10am flight post security, and a bar would open later in the day. There’s ample, comfortable seating in the lounge, and plenty of room for social distancing.

With small capacity flights and limited services at present, it’s a great time to fly – the airport was very quiet. It’s also worth mentioning that Domestic and International travellers are separated both through the security process and in at the gates themselves.

Domestically, I believe this is the only service where Air Canada will provide alcoholic beverages free of charge, to match the service offered by Porter on the same route. They’ll make you a Caesar, serve beer or wine, or a number of other spirits – plus tea, coffee, soft drinks and juices. I daresay the wonderful staff go so far as to encourage the Caesar at 10am, which I was not complaining about.

They also provide Miss Vickies Potato Chips or Kit Kat Chocolates amongst a small selection of complimentary snacks. A packet of sanitizer and masks are also handed out as you board – something they’re doing across all their routes. The flight was on time, and a wonderful experience.

My return flight with Porter Airlines was actually their first returning to the Quebec City (YQB) – Billy Bishop (YTZ) route. Quebec City is about three hours out of Montreal, and a wonderful city to visit whenever you get the chance. The flight from Billy Bishop to Montreal is a little over an hour, while to Quebec City it’s closer to 90 minutes.

At Quebec City Airport, we were greeted to an almost empty airport as well, and the flight, which had only resumed service that day, was almost empty as well. Staff were fantastic though, and I felt very looked after. Seats are comfortable, but don’t recline on the De Havilland Dash 8-400, which like Air Canada’s Bombardier Q400 operates in a 2-2 layout throughout the whole cabin.

Shortly after take off, wine, beer and soft drinks were served, with chips, almonds or cookies. I enjoyed a lovely red wine. Unlike with Air Canada, no masks or sanitizer were handed out on the Porter flight, though I’m sure they would have given you some if you’d asked. And to top it all off: the flight arrived well ahead of schedule.

Something worth mentioning with Porter, is that if you want to have a carry on (something that doesn’t fit under the seat in front of you), make sure you pay for that when you buy the ticket – it gets more expensive in the leadup to the flight. Air Canada include this with your ticket, but Porter do not.

No vaccination checks were made on either flight, or at either airport, which was confusing given the recent federal mandates. It left me wondering if it’s a staggered arrangement with airlines and terminals, or if some just haven’t gotten their act together in time? Given how important these mandates are on restoring consumer confidence in a country that has an almost 85% vaccination rate, here’s hoping they figure that out.

Final Verdict

Comparing these two airlines is a tough one, as the service was nearly identical. Air Canada slightly outshined Porter thanks to the complimentary spirits, but don’t expect that on any other Air Canada flight. Where as beer and wine are a given on all Porter routes. The inclusion of carry on baggage in your ticket also gives Air Canada a point over Porter – but the prices remain comparable all the same.

The service from both airlines was professional, friendly and the experience was a comfortable one from start to finish. It helped that the airports were both exceptionally quiet as well – meaning it was a breeze at all points of the experience. Not something to expect at all times, of course.

I would highly recommend flying on either airline in or out of Billy Bishop – if you can avoid the madness of Toronto’s primary airport (Pearson, YYZ), you absolutely should.

International flights to and from the USA resume for Porter have also resumed this month, and once again Billy Bishop will serve as the preferred entry point (over the crowded Pearson) for visitors crossing the North American border (which recently re-opened to non-essential travel. So definitely check out Porter Airline’s website for all their routes.

The only confusion really was over Vaccinations. For all this talk of Quebec & Canadian vaccination requisites, I didn’t get checked at Toronto City nor Quebec City Airport, nor by Porter or Air Canada. I do wonder how this process will develop over time – after all, the current plan is to require all domestic travellers are vaccinated. But after this trip, it’s hard to know exactly how this is currently being implemented.

No injuries to pilot after float plane makes emergency landing on lake near airport

From Global News – link to source story

By Rebecca Lau, Global News | September 28, 2021

A pilot of a float plane performed an emergency landing on a lake near the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Tuesday.
A pilot of a float plane performed an emergency landing on a lake near the Halifax Stanfield International Airport on Tuesday. Reynold Gregor/Global News

The pilot of a float plane made an emergency landing on a lake near Halifax’s Stanfield International Airport on Tuesday afternoon, and ended up being rescued by boat.

The incident happened at around 1 p.m. on Turf Lake.

According to Kevin Dean, a district fire chief with the Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, the pilot was coming from the eastern part of the province and was headed to Boston when the plane lost power.

“He was going to bring it into Stanfield but didn’t make it,” Dean said.

Dean described the scene as a “rough landing,” but a successful one. He said the pilot was uninjured and the plane had “minimal damage.”

“We actually put a boat in the water, went out, got the pilot to shore,” he said.

The RCMP and Transportation Safety Board of Canada will now investigate the incident.

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

Air Canada Foundation Golf Tournament Nets more than $765,000 for the Health and Well-being of Children and Youth in Canada

  • Thanks to our generous donors, dedicated employees and retirees for making this event a success

MONTREAL, Sept. 29, 2021 /CNW/ – The Air Canada Foundation successfully raised more than $765,000 during the ninth edition of its annual golf tournament. The tournament resumed after a one-year pause due to COVID-19. The fundraising event will support charitable organizations dedicated to the health and well-being of children and youth in Canada. Held at the Saint-Raphaël Golf Club on Monday, September 27, following local COVID-19 protocols, the event welcomed approximately 250 guests.

“On behalf of all the children and families whose lives are touched by the Foundation, I extend a heartfelt thank you to Air Canada’s  partners and friends who joined us today to support the Foundation’s activities,” said Priscille LeBlanc, Chair of the Air Canada Foundation. “Their ongoing generosity is particularly heartwarming this year as the pandemic has made times more difficult than ever for many of the young Canadians we support. The funds raised at this event will go to children in need, some who otherwise would not get to eat breakfast everyday and others who need to fly great distances  for urgent medical care.”

“After a challenging 2020, we were thrilled to finally hold this annual event that helps support charitable organizations across Canada which are focused on the health and well-being of children and youth. The Foundation has made a difference in the lives of thousands of children, and through the tireless work of so many outstanding Air Canada volunteers, employees and retirees, as well as the unwavering support of our partners. This successful event would not have been possible without them,” said Arielle Meloul-Wechsler, Executive Vice President, Chief Human Resources Officer and Public Affairs at Air Canada.

One of the activities during the tournament allowed golfers to support three charities selected by the Air Canada Foundation. Each participant was given a $50 certificate, which they could donate to either of the three charitable organizations during their round of play. Thanks to this initiative, The Terry Fox Foundation, La Tablée des Chefs and Canadian Red Cross received a total amount of $12,000.

Youngsters Maika and Zachary, representing charitable partners of the Air Canada Foundation, played an important role by manning the highly coveted lemonade stand. Together, they raised approximately $16,375.

At the closing of the event, each guest received a meal box, courtesy of the Tablée des Chefs. Unused meal boxes were donated to the Old Brewery Mission.

The Air Canada Foundation was pleased to welcome TD as Presenting Partner of this year’s event. The event’s Patrons of Honour and Gold sponsors were:

AARCWTPretium
Aéroports de MontréalEdmonton International
Airport
RRD
Air CanadaEYSmartKargo
Air MilesHCLStikeman Elliott
American ExpressHSBC Bank CanadaSTS Aviation Services
American Express Global
Business Travel
IBM Canada Ltd.TW Insurance Services Inc.
Avolon AeroJazzUnifor
CAEKPMGVisa Canada
Calgary Airport AuthorityMacquarie BankVoyzant
CIBC Capital MarketsMondee Group
Citibank CanadaNordic Aviation Capital

In 2020 alone, the Air Canada Foundation granted over $2.4 million in financial and in-kind support to 100 Canadian registered charities and helped over 150 fundraising events and initiatives.

Further to its annual golf tournament, the Air Canada Foundation raises funds through a number of initiatives, including Every Bit Counts, an on-board collection program that facilitates the donation of currency of any denomination on Air Canada flights or through collection containers available at Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges.

About the Air Canada Foundation
About the Air Canada Foundation: The Air Canada Foundation, a not-for-profit organization focused on the health and well-being of children and youth, was launched in 2012. It offers both financial and in-kind support to Canadian registered charities. Core programs include the Hospital Transportation Program, which redistributes Aeroplan points to 15 pediatric hospitals across Canada, enabling sick children to access the medical care they need away from home. The Air Canada Foundation, in collaboration with the airline, also engages directly in fundraising activities, such as the Every Bit Counts program, which encourages Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge customers to donate loose change of all denominations on board flights or through collection containers available in Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges. The Foundation also offers continued support to major health-related causes that benefit Canadians and is an active participant in international humanitarian relief activity as the need arises. For more information about the Air Canada Foundation, please visit www.aircanada.com/foundation or in Air Canada’s 2020 Corporate Sustainability report available at www.aircanada.com/citizensoftheworld.

Bell Textron Canada Celebrates 35 Years of Excellence in Canada

The only manufacturer of vertical lift aircraft in Canada marks an important milestone

MIRABEL, QC, Sept. 29, 2021 /CNW/ – Bell Textron Canada Ltd., a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, is proud to celebrate 35 years of operations in Mirabel, Qc, Canada. Founded in 1986, the global Centre of Excellence is home to civil and commercial aircraft manufacturing, assembly, flight testing and customer delivery.

Made in Canada - Bell Textron Canada Ltd. (CNW Group/Bell Textron Canada Ltd.)
Made in Canada – Bell Textron Canada Ltd. (CNW Group/Bell Textron Canada Ltd.)

From its first Bell 206B Jet Ranger aircraft produced in 1986, through new helicopter development programs like the Bell 429, Bell has been instrumental for vertical flight technology in Canada. Certifying single and twin-engines rotorcraft over the last 35 years, Bell has produced more than 5,600 commercial aircraft operating around the world, among which 1,000 are in the Canadian market today.

“For three and a half decades, Bell Textron Canada has produced and delivered leading-edge commercial helicopters to provide vertical lift solutions to operators, businesses and government agencies all over the world. Along the way, we’ve built a remarkable legacy in Canada,” said Mitch Snyder, Bell president and CEO.

With a renowned reputation for safety and reliability, Bell Textron Canada has partnered with the Canadian and Quebec governments over the years to produce and support the Royal Canadian Air Force’s Griffon fleet, the Canadian Coast Guard and the Sûreté du Québec. According to OMX, with its Supply Centre in Calgary, Alberta, and Commercial Assembly and Delivery Centre in Mirabel, Quebec, Bell sustains more than 6,200 jobs in Canada, has 550 suppliers across the country and contributes $848M to Canada’s GDP per year.

“35 years ago, Canada’s strong interest in establishing itself in the helicopter industry, their support and funding for construction, research and technology development, attracted Bell to this region and eventually enabled the company to build a robust commercial helicopter line. Today, the Bell team is a driving force for aerospace innovation in Canada and throughout the aviation industry, delivering safe and reliable aircraft, and offering superior customer experience,” said Steeve Lavoie, President of Bell Textron Canada.

Bell Textron Canada is represented by 1,300 highly skilled employees focused on innovation, product development, airframe design, world-class composite production, complete integration, certification, customer experience, and superior service and support for customers in country and around the globe.

“At Bell, innovation is in our DNA. We have extremely bright minds who are passionate about pushing the limits of vertical flight as we know it today. Here’s to another 35 years,” added Lavoie.

To read more about Bell’s impact in Canada, visit Bell’s webpage at https://www.bellflight.com/company/canada

ABOUT BELL

Thinking above and beyond is what we do. For more than 80 years, we’ve been reimagining the experience of flight – and where it can take us.

We are pioneers. We were the first to break the sound barrier and to certify a commercial helicopter. We were aboard NASA’s first lunar mission and brought advanced tiltrotor systems to market. Today, we’re defining the future of on-demand mobility.

Headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas – as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Textron Inc., – we have strategic locations around the globe. And with nearly one quarter of our workforce having served, helping our military achieve their missions is a passion of ours.

Above all, our breakthrough innovations deliver exceptional experiences to our customers. Efficiently. Reliably. And always, with safety at the forefront.

ABOUT TEXTRON INC.

Textron Inc. is a multi-industry company that leverages its global network of aircraft, defense, industrial and finance businesses to provide customers with innovative solutions and services. Textron is known around the world for its powerful brands such as Bell Helicopter, Cessna, Beechcraft, Hawker, Jacobsen, Kautex, Lycoming, E-Z-GO, Greenlee, Textron Off Road, Arctic Cat, Textron Systems, and TRU Simulation + Training. For more information, visit: www.textron.com.

How Annick Guerard is leading the fightback at Canada’s Air Transat

From Flight Global – link to source story

By Pilar Wolfsteller | 28 September 2021

With a little help from new partners and a determination not to dwell on a punishing 18 months for the business, Annick Guerard is plotting a secure future for Air Transat

Montreal winters are painfully, unspeakably cold. Within minutes of exposure, uncovered skin could succumb to frostbite and wet hair freezes into icicles. Canadians know that it is unwise to spend long periods outdoors in such conditions.

But on a ridiculously frigid day back in 2001, a young Annick Guerard found herself on the apron of a Montreal-area airport, shadowing Air Transat maintenance professionals who were about to inspect and repair the wing of an aircraft. The temperature was -35°C (-31°F), and Guerard was bundled up in the warmest clothes she could find.

“I was dressed to go to the North Pole, and the mechanics began to remove their gloves to work,” she says. “I couldn’t believe it.”

She was there as a senior consultant for Deloitte, and Transat was her client. A civil engineer who had earned a degree at Polytechnique Montreal, and who holds a master’s degree in business administration from HEC Montreal, Guerard had specialised in logistics management and implementing continuous-improvement programmes in the transportation and manufacturing sectors.

OBVIOUS PASSION

During two weeks embedded in Transat’s line maintenance department, she watched in astonishment as mechanics forged on in the sub-zero climate, day after day. And despite the brutal, surreal weather, she felt an immediate connection with the workers and their company. Their passion for the airline was tangible, several even sporting tattoos of the carrier’s star logo.

Barely a year later, perhaps in part as a result of her grit on that icy assignment, Air Transat hired her as its senior director for strategy and customer experience. Two decades on, she’s now the chief executive.

Air Transat

Source: Benedicte Brocard

Guerard laughs at the story of her first encounter with the airline that would propel her to the top of her profession. But it is clear she holds deep respect for the employees who made Air Transat the company it is today.

“I love this company. I love everything about it. I love the people, and I love to come to work every day,” she says.

Guerard, now 50 years old, took the controls at the airline in May, as it faced twin crises, either of which could have signalled the end of the 35-year-old brand: a global coronavirus pandemic that seemed to never end, and the termination of a blockbuster deal with cross-town rival Air Canada that had been conceived to rescue the ailing carrier.

“It has been very tough these past few months,” she says, reflectively. “Sometimes we didn’t know if we would make it to the end of the day.”

The worst part, she says, was making the painful decision to shut down temporarily and lay off workers.

From the beginning of the pandemic through to August of this year, Canada had some of the strictest and longest-running pandemic-driven travel restrictions anywhere. Federal entry requirements for passengers arriving from outside Canada – including a required quarantine period in a government-authorised facility at the travellers’ cost – and regional regulations made travelling to or within Canada a complex undertaking.

Transat was forced to suspend flight operations twice since the beginning of the global health crisis. It first ceased operations from 1 April until 23 July 2020, joining numerous other airlines that quickly and radically slashed costs, battening down hatches as the still-little-known virus portended disaster for the global aviation industry.

IMPOSSIBLE TASK

“Trying to forecast demand at one point was just impossible. Our teams were redesigning the programme week after week, adapting to the new border restrictions and requirements,” she says.

Transat shut down again in February 2021, this time at the government’s request, in an attempt to quash any chance of infected passengers entering from abroad.

The de facto cancellation of Canada’s all-important spring-break travel season, when many Canadians seek out sunny destinations and warmer weather, hit the holiday specialist particularly hard. And still, the federal government declined to provide the industry with financial relief.

On Guerard’s first earnings call as chief executive in June, she reported an entire quarter without revenue.

In addition to dealing with the biggest industry crisis of our time, Transat spent much of the past two years attempting to close a deal with Air Canada that promised to strengthen and stabilise the brand. The timeline of the planned marriage, announced in 2019 and originally expected to close by mid-2020, was thrown off by the pandemic. Covid-19 also forced a radical rework of terms.

The legacy carrier initially offered to buy Transat for C$18 ($14.26) per share, making the deal worth about C$720 million. But following the precipitous decline in air travel demand, Air Canada slashed the price to C$5 per share. Transat’s shareholders overwhelmingly approved the new offer in December 2020, seeing it as a last-ditch means to salvage the company.

The Canadian government approved the transaction in early February, subject to conditions including job assurances, a commitment to maintain a significant presence in French-speaking Canada, the launch of new destinations within five years and what the government called “a price-monitoring mechanism”.

But two months later, after significant foot-dragging, the European Commission effectively nixed the deal because of competition concerns on European routes, leading the companies to call it off completely.

At the time, both airlines expressed frustration at the drawn-out process and the Commission’s conditions, which Air Canada called “onerous”, and “beyond commercially reasonable”.

A separate offer from an independent investor was also retracted, and negotiations ended shortly thereafter.

Canada’s number three airline was left to founder, and figure out how to go it alone.

Guerard does not look back, and does not spare a word for the deal that might have been. The company finally received C$700 million in federal financial aid in April – C$390 million to keep it operational, and C$310 million to reimburse customers whose flights had been cancelled.

Air Transat

Source: Benedicte Brocard

“Honestly, we wish the government had shown more concern for the industry from the beginning of the crisis, like we saw early on in Europe and the USA,” she says. “But we are grateful for the financial support that we got in the spring. It gave us the breathing space we needed to move forward.”

Transat’s speciality is selling package tours and operating flights to popular tourist destinations, particularly those in Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe. Before Covid-19, the company had 5,200 employees. At the height of the crisis it had laid off up to 85% of the workforce, and currently has just 1,300. Guerard says that the airline is targeting to grow back to 4,300 employees by the end of 2023.

The pauses forced the carrier to critically review its processes and structures, and to do more with less. In 2018, Transat had launched a transformation project that saw it begin moving away from its tour operating business and travel agency network, and investing more in its airline. In the past year and a half, the company accelerated the project’s key initiatives, which include simplifying the fleet, flattening workforce hierarchies, centralising functions and implementing other cost-saving measures.

Transat, which had been one of the last airlines operating Airbus A310-300s, retired the last of the widebody twinjets in 2020. It also stopped operating Boeing 737NGs, leaving it with just two Airbus types: A321s and A330s.

After restarting flight operations on 30 July and spooling up in August, the airline had nine of its 10 4,000nm (7,410km)-range A321LRs in operation by September. Transat holds orders for seven more of the type, which it expects will enter the fleet in the next two years. The carrier also has seven A321ceos, which it hopes to reactivate by November, helping ensure the airline has enough jets to serve a network expected by winter to encompass 50 destinations

COCKPIT COMMONALITY

In addition, the airline has 12 widebody A330s – all are currently in storage, but Transat anticipates returning them to service in December.

“With this mix, we have attained cockpit commonality which provides several advantages, including that pilots have the ability to be current on more than one aircraft type at a time,” Guerard says.

Of course, the return of those aircraft depends on the return of Transat’s customers. And customers will come back only when movement becomes easier, and virus mitigation strategies are co-ordinated, especially across national borders.

“Today, it takes a PhD with a speciality in ‘travel restrictions’ to understand how to travel between countries,” she says. “Even if we are all vaccinated, the demand won’t come back because it will still be too complicated for people to travel.”

And with Canada’s federal election coming up in October, the tourism industry is currently not the government’s top priority.

In five years, though, Transat hopes to grow to 55 aircraft. Guerard is eyeing the 4,700nm (8,704km)-range A321XLR, which she calls a “superstar single-aisle” that is best suited for the routes Transat operates.

“Fifty-five aircraft is still a small fleet… We don’t want to go back to where we were, with a complex and not-well-adapted fleet, which in the past caused us many efficiency and utilisation problems,” she says.

So it is natural that in this new post-pandemic, post-failed-merger normalcy, Transat is looking to optimise its resources, to punch above its weight. Guerard alludes to something more ambitious than existing as just another low-cost leisure airline ferrying winter-weary Canadian snowbirds to sun-soaked Caribbean beaches.

“Our network was designed to serve point-to-point traffic, and we have clearly understood the limitations of operating in isolation,” she says.

“We want to offer more destinations and options to our clients. So we are looking at partners to do that, and alliances are a key part of our network development strategy,” she adds.

Airbus

Source: Liner/Shutterstock.com

A321LRs have re-entered service as Air Transat ramps up its operations

For the moment, she declines to name names. What she does reveal is that both North American and European airlines are in the mix.

“We have a strong asset to offer to potential partners, [and are] looking to increase our footprint between America and Europe and sun destinations. So, our approach right now is to start with simple bilateral agreements, which will give us some quick wins,” she says. “And these partnerships may evolve into something more important and strategic in the near future.”

Guerard says she was well prepared for her promotion to chief executive after spending more than three years as the company’s chief operations officer alongside now-retired former chief and airline co-founder Jean-Marc Eustache. During that time, she got a good look at the top job and spearheaded the fleet modernisation plan, digital and IT upgrades and revenue- and cost-management improvement efforts.

“There were no real surprises,” she says of the transition. “And it’s always great when the succession comes from within [the company]. It shows that the talent development management has worked well.”

STRONG RESOLVE

The past 18 months have steeled her resolve to lead the carrier out of the coronavirus disruption as a stronger, leaner and more-focused airline.

“We have always excelled in adversity. We are fighters, and we have gone to war together,” Guerard says of the company. “At the beginning, we felt comfortable to be able to deal with this kind of crisis, but of course we never expected that we would remain in crisis mode for so long.

“Over the past year and a half decisions needed to be co-ordinated very efficiently, whether it was managing cash flow, paying the bills, co-ordinating the layoffs, organising the recall, parking the airplanes or repatriating our clients. Everything had to be executed perfectly and fast.”

She says Transat’s employees rose to the challenge.

Just like the tattooed mechanics, peeling off their winter gloves on the ice-cold airport tarmac 20 years ago, ready to repair a wing. 

Volatus Aerospace Partners with Iris Automation

Collaboration enhances critical BVLOS preparations in inspections and cargo delivery operations

ORO MEDONTE, Ontario and RENO, Nev., Sept. 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Volatus Aerospace and commercial drone safety innovator, Iris Automation, have entered a partnership to offer Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) drone solutions to global clients seeking to safely unlock the skies above cities and solve logistics challenges in remote and rural areas.

Volatus is a leading player in BVLOS flight training and waivered operations. Clients are provided with enhanced training that includes BVLOS regulations, detection and tracking methods, sensors, communication as well as geographical and topographical impacts to mission. Risk analysis and mitigation strategies are key to the Volatus SORA preparation training offered. Following the theory portion of training, Volatus provides “in-field” activity where clients work with experienced BVLOS pilots and perform practical exercises, including flight principles, functionality, and controllability in a BVLOS environment. Volatus has aircraft equipped with Iris Automation’s detect-and-avoid (DAA) system, Casia, available in these training environments.

The Iris Automation Casia system uses a proprietary perception engine to visually detect other aircraft and make intelligent decisions about the threat they may pose to the drone. It then works seamlessly to trigger automated maneuvers to avoid collisions, as well as alerting the pilot in command of the mission. 

Casia is the only solution for commercial drones and unpiloted aircraft delivering a full 360° radial detection capability using computer vision technology.

Glen Lynch, CEO of Volatus said, “Iris is a clear leader in this nascent industry preparing to take the right steps into Beyond Visual Line of Sight operations. This partnership enhances Volatus’ ability to expand across global markets and support a broader range of customer missions by enabling clients to obtain complex operational approvals and certifications.

“The team at Volatus is committed to bridging the gap to true BVLOS operations and is uniquely addressing the regulatory, training and technology requirements necessary to ensure safety and reliability. We’re excited to partner with Volatus to accelerate the safe integration of crewed and uncrewed aircraft into airspaces around the globe,” said Lori DeMatteis, VP of sales and marketing at Iris Automation.

About Iris Automation: Iris Automation is a safety avionics technology company pioneering on- and off-board perception systems and aviation policy services that enable customers to build scalable operations for crewed and uncrewed aircraft; unlocking the potential of countless industries. Iris’ Casia system runs either onboard the aircraft or in a ground-based configuration. We work closely with civil aviation authorities globally as they implement regulatory frameworks ensuring BVLOS is conducted safely, partnering on multiple FAA ASSURE and BEYOND UAS Integration Programs and Transport Canada’s BVLOS Technology Demonstration Program. Visit http://www.irisonboard.com.

About Volatus Aerospace: Volatus is a leading provider of integrated drone solutions. Operating a vast pilot network with offices throughout Canada, the United States, and South America; Volatus provides enterprise and industrial solutions including training; equipment sales & support; imaging & inspection services; design & manufacture; and research & development. With a rapidly expanding network of strategic partnerships and acquisitions; Volatus is driving the full potential of UAV technologies around the world and shaping the industry of tomorrow.

Bombardier’s Flagship Global 7500 and Best-selling Challenger 350 Business Jets on Display in Europe

  • Guests have the chance to step aboard Bombardier’s two most renowned aircraft, which offer an unparalleled combination of cabin experience and performance
  • Showcase includes stops in Germany, Spain and Sweden
  • As part of Bombardier’s long-standing commitment to sustainability, jets are touring using Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

MONTRÉAL, Sept. 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Bombardier is pleased to announce that two of its leading business jets, the industry flagship Global 7500 aircraft and the super mid-size market leader Challenger 350 aircraft, are on a tour of several European countries.

The showcase has begun in Germany and will include stops in the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Denmark before wrapping up in Sweden on October 5.

“As interest in business aviation grows in Europe and all over the world, it’s important for customers to see first-hand how the cabins and attention to detail aboard Bombardier jets set themselves apart,” said Emmanuel Bornand, Regional Vice President of Sales, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Bombardier. “We’re so pleased to create this distinctive experience for our guests.”

The Global 7500 aircraft created a new space at the upper end of the business jet spectrum since its entry-into-service, with the 100th aircraft already being manufactured. This unparalleled business jet offers four true living areas, including a master suite with a full-size bed, and Bombardier’s patented Nuage seating collection for the ultimate comfort on long flights. Its industry-leading range of 7,700 nautical miles (14,260 kilometres) means passengers can fly nonstop from Western Europe to virtually anywhere on the planet, including Bali, Tokyo and Honolulu. The Global 7500 aircraft’s steep approach capabilities allow it to access London City and a variety of challenging airfields – and to fly out of these airports with excellent range.

The Challenger 350 aircraft is the industry’s best-selling super mid-size jet for seven years running, thanks to its performance, reliability and advantageous operating costs, not to mention its best-in-class cabin experience and smooth ride. This tour will provide an occasion for guests to learn more about the future of this renowned business jet, which will soon be evolving into the Challenger 3500 aircraft, entering service in the second half of 2022. This aircraft will have a brand-new interior and a host of innovations and was proudly designed through a sustainable lens.

Bombardier’s commitment to sustainability is also on display during this tour, as the Challenger 350 and Global 7500 aircraft are travelling through Europe on Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), refined by Neste. Bombardier is a longtime proponent of the widespread adoption and availability of this fuel as an effective tool toward the industry’s goal to minimize its carbon footprint.

Visits to the aircraft are by appointment, and guests are required to follow COVID-19 protocols in place.

About Bombardier
Bombardier is a global leader in aviation, creating innovative and game-changing planes. Our products and services provide world-class experiences that set new standards in passenger comfort, energy efficiency, reliability and safety.

Headquartered in Montréal, Canada, Bombardier is present in more than 12 countries including its production/engineering sites and its customer support network. The Corporation supports a worldwide fleet of more than 4,900 aircraft in service with a wide variety of multinational corporations, charter and fractional ownership providers, governments and private individuals.

BombardierChallenger 350Challenger 3500, Global, Global 7500 and Nuage are registered or unregistered trademarks of Bombardier Inc. or its subsidiaries.