Air Canada temporarily grounding all Rouge flights starting Monday

From City News Toronto – link to source story

BY NEWS STAFF | POSTED FEB 3, 2021 6:09 PM EST

Air Canada Rouge Airbus

All Air Canada Rouge flights will be paused beginning Monday.

The airline is citing new restrictions brought in by the Canadian government that effectively ban flights to sunny destinations like the Caribbean and Mexico in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roughly 80 employees have been handed temporary layoffs.

This isn’t the first interruption for Rouge service. Flights were suspended for most of last year but restarted in November ahead of the winter travel season.

Air Canada says Rouge remains a part of its long-term business plan.

Last week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, and Air Transat  would suspend service to Caribbean destinations and Mexico between January 31, and April 30.

“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,” Trudeau said last Friday.

“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time when we can all plan those vacations.”

With files from the Canadian Press

COVID-infected flights fall sharply across Canada

From Toronto Sun – link to source story

Bryan Passifiume  •  Nov 23, 2020

Pearson International airport was practically vacant at Terminal 1  except for a few international flyers  on Thursday April 2, 2020. Jack Boland/Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network
Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 2, 2020. PHOTO BY JACK BOLAND /Toronto Sun

Only five international and six domestic flights with passengers infected with COVID-19 landed at Canadian airports last week.

That’s compared to 44 international and 60 domestic flights recorded the week previous, according to publicly available data from Health Canada.

Five of the six domestic flights occurred on Nov. 16 — Swoop 406 between Toronto and Abbotsford, PAL Airlines 1902 between Quebec City and Sept-Iles, Jazz 8280 between Vancouver and Prince Rupert, Air Canada 341 between Ottawa and Vancouver, and Air Canada 209 between Calgary and Vancouver.

The sixth flight was Air Canada 428 from Toronto to Montreal on Nov. 17.

Internationally, only two infected flights originated from the United States,  both from Chicago — United 4552 to Toronto on Nov. 16 and Air Canada 7596 to Montreal on Nov. 17

Other international flights include Air Canada 989 from Cancun to Montreal and Rouge 1994 from Mexico City to Toronto — both on Nov. 17 — and Turkish Airlines 17 from Istanbul to Toronto on Nov. 18, the only non-North American flight to carry COVID-positive passengers.

Calgary, home to the federal government’s pilot program testing international arrivals for COVID-19, recorded no infected passengers over the past week, down from two the week previous.

Turkish Airlines has carried the most COVID-19 infected passengers of any international carrier over the past two weeks — seven to Toronto and one to Montreal.

Health Canada only posts data online from the past two weeks, and does not list how many passengers on board tested positive, only — when available — listing ranges of row numbers of where the person may have sat.

Data on infections comes from a variety of sources, states Health Canada, including contact tracing and information from local public health authorities.

Thirty-six infected domestic and international flights landed in Toronto since Nov. 8, the highest in Canada, while 24 landed at Vancouver, 19 at Montreal and six at Calgary.

Since March, only four Canadian airports — Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver — are permitted to accept international flights, with some exceptions.

Air Canada Reports Third Quarter 2020 Results

  • COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery Plan nearly complete
  • Total passengers carried declined 88 per cent due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions
  • Deferral and/or cancellation of Boeing 737-8 and Airbus A220 deliveries
  • Reduction of capital expenditures by about $3.0 billion over 2020-2023 period

MONTREAL, Nov. 9, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – Total revenues of $757 million in the third quarter of 2020 declined $4.773 billion or 86 per cent from the third quarter of 2019. The airline reported third quarter 2020 negative EBITDA or (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization), excluding special items, of $554 million compared to third quarter 2019 EBITDA of $1.472 billion. Air Canada reported an operating loss of $785 million in the third quarter of 2020 compared to operating income of $956 million in the third quarter of 2019. Total revenue passengers carried declined 88 per cent in the quarter compared to last year’s third quarter. Unrestricted liquidity amounted to $8.189 billion at September 30, 2020.

“Today’s results reflect COVID-19’s unprecedented impact on our industry globally and on Air Canada in what has historically been our most productive and profitable quarter. From the outset, we have made the health and safety of our customers and employees our chief concern. Our airline has been a leader in introducing progressive layers of protection, such as our comprehensive suite of biosafety measures, Air Canada CleanCare+, and we continue to explore new technologies and processes to further assure travellers and regulators. Amongst the various science-based measures we have been advocating, testing at airports is by far the most significant, as demonstrated by the McMaster HealthLabs’ study of international travellers arriving at Toronto-Pearson. It was reported to be the largest-ever study of its kind and preliminary results clearly confirm safe alternatives exist to a mandatory 14-day quarantine, which is both stifling demand and frustrating travellers who are willing to be tested,” said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive Officer of Air Canada.

“In parallel, we acted decisively to implement our COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery Plan. Since March, we have raised almost $6 billion in additional liquidity, leveraging what was one of the industry’s strongest balance sheets as we entered the pandemic. We took the painful steps of eliminating 20,000 jobs, after having created 10,000 over the previous five years, and of reversing 10 years of profitable network expansion by reducing capacity by more than 80 per cent in the third quarter.

“At the end of June, we made the difficult decision to indefinitely suspend 30 domestic routes and close eight regional stations and our Network Planning team has identified up to a further 95 domestic, U.S. transborder and international route suspensions and nine Canadian station closures required to preserve liquidity, cut costs and reduce capital expenditures as we prepare for a smaller footprint expected to last several years. Given the public statements made by the Honourable Marc Garneau, Canada’s Minister of Transport, on November 8, 2020 regarding commencing immediate discussions with major airlines on aviation industry sector-specific support, we are deferring the additional route suspensions and station closures pending the progress of those discussions.

“According to IATA’s Chief Economist, governments have already provided more than US$160 billion of aid to airlines globally, recognizing the critical role they play in a country’s economy. Beyond sustaining tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs, a healthy Canadian airline industry is essential for Canada’s infrastructure on which its economic recovery from COVID-19 depends and vital to securing the country’s place in a reordered, post-pandemic world. The impact on the industry and on the economy of how we as a country handle this crisis in air transportation will be felt for years to come.

“We have also continued our discussions with the Government of Canada on a more measured, science-based approach to travel restrictions and quarantines, which remain amongst the most onerous in the world. Preliminary results from several international studies and our McMaster HealthLabs study indicate testing can provide an effective responsible alternative to facilitate the safe relaxation of quarantines.

“We have taken several measures to carefully rationalize our existing fleet: We are accelerating the retirement of 79 mainline and Rouge aircraft. We are deferring delivery of new Boeing 737-8 and Airbus A220 aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2021 and 2022 and cancelling 10 Boeing 737-8s and 12 Airbus A220s, representing about 40 per cent of the remaining scheduled deliveries. Despite modifications made to our orders, these two aircraft remain the core of our narrowbody fleet and enable us to efficiently serve transcontinental domestic and transborder routes through improved economics and range, while providing an excellent customer experience. Through this fleet restructuring and other capital reduction initiatives, we have successfully lowered total projected capital expenditures by about $3.0 billion over the 2020 to 2023 period compared to our total projected capital expenditures at the end of 2019. 

“In addition to the mitigation steps we have taken, Air Canada is also preparing for the post-COVID recovery. Along with other ongoing initiatives, this month we launched the new Aeroplan, expected to be one of the best travel loyalty programs available. Our simplified and restructured aircraft fleet will be highly fuel efficient and well-configured for our key routes. Our proposed acquisition of Transat A.T. Inc. will enable us to better compete with global competitors in a drastically altered global airline market. Our nimble Cargo team has pivoted to dedicated all-cargo flights during the pandemic and Cargo will become an increasingly important segment of our business going forward. Most importantly, our culture remains strong – we have employees who remain highly motivated and intensely focused on safely transporting our customers and I thank them for their commitment and hard work,” concluded Mr. Rovinescu.

Air Canada has taken or will be taking the following measures as part of its COVID-19 Mitigation and Recovery Plan:

Customer Service and Safety

  • Air Canada makes safety its first consideration in all that it does and has been continually updating its health and safety policies and procedures for travellers and employees in all workplaces, airports, and onboard aircraft to account for new information about COVID-19 as it becomes available. This includes a requirement for customers to wear a protective face covering, as well as enhanced protective personal equipment for airport agents and crews, the reinforcement of safe practices such as frequent hand-washing and collaborating with the Canadian federal government to screen passengers to help determine fitness for flying.
  • To underscore its commitment to customer and employee safety, Air Canada introduced Air Canada CleanCare+. This program is designed to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 through such measures as enhanced aircraft grooming, mandatory preflight customer temperature checks in addition to required health questionnaires and providing all customers with care kits for hand cleaning and hygiene.
  • Air Canada has undertaken several medical collaborations to continue advancing biosafety across its business, including with Cleveland Clinic Canada in Toronto, a renowned global healthcare leader, to provide additional science-based evidence in our ongoing COVID-19 response; with Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience to explore rapid COVID-19 testing in an aviation environment; and since last year with Toronto-based BlueDot, a company that monitors infectious diseases globally in real time to give us accurate, relevant information to make business and safety decisions quickly.
  • Air Canada has been partnering with McMaster HealthLabs and the Greater Toronto Airports Authority in a study of international travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Preliminary results indicate that testing can provide an effective, responsible alternative to facilitate the safe relaxation of quarantines.
  • Air Canada recently announced that it was finalizing an initial order of Abbott’s ID NOW COVID-19 rapid response tests as part of its ongoing evaluation of COVID-19 testing technology and protocols, one of the first private sector companies to do so.
  • Air Canada also recently announced plans to explore the application of COVID-19 contact tracing technology in its workplace using the Bluetooth enabled TraceSCAN app and wearable technology developed by Canadian-based Facedrive Inc.
  • To meet the demand for the global transport of goods, including personal protective equipment during the pandemic, Air Canada operated more than 3,000 all-cargo international flights since March 22, 2020, and plans to operate up to 100 all-cargo flights per week in the fourth quarter of 2020 using a combination of Boeing 787 and Boeing 777 aircraft as well as four converted Boeing 777 and three converted Airbus 330 aircraft where it has doubled available cargo space by removing seats from the passenger cabin.
  • Air Canada announced special benefits and accommodations for Aeroplan and Altitude members in light of COVID-19. These include pausing mileage expiration, grandfathering mileage-earned status, waiving certain change and redeposit fees, and launching new promotions so that members can earn additional Aeroplan Miles without leaving home.

Capacity and Route Network

  • Air Canada reduced second and third quarter 2020 ASM capacity by 92.0 per cent and 81.7 per cent, respectively, compared to the same quarters in 2019, and plans to reduce fourth quarter 2020 capacity by approximately 75 per cent compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. The airline will continue to dynamically adjust capacity and take other measures as required to adjust for demand, including as a result of health warnings, travel restrictions, quarantines, border closures and passenger demand.
  • On June 30, 2020, Air Canada suspended service indefinitely on 30 domestic regional routes and closed eight stations at regional airports in Canada.

Financing and Liquidity

  • In March 2020, Air Canada drew down its US$600 million and $200 million revolving credit facilities for aggregate net proceeds of $1.027 billion.
  • In June 2020, Air Canada concluded an underwritten marketed public offering of 35,420,000 voting shares of Air Canada at a price of $16.25 per share for aggregate proceeds of $576 million, and a concurrent marketed private placement of convertible senior unsecured notes due 2025 for aggregate proceeds of US$748 million ($1.011 billion).
  • In June 2020, Air Canada completed a private offering of $840 million aggregate principal amount of 9.00 per cent Second Lien Secured Notes due 2024, which were sold at 98 per cent of par.
  • In June 2020, Air Canada completed a private offering of one tranche of Class C Enhanced Equipment Trust Certificates (EETCs) with a combined aggregate face amount of approximately US$316 million ($426 million), which were sold at 95.002 per cent of par.
  • In September 2020, Air Canada concluded a private offering of two tranches of EETCs, the proceeds of which were used to purchase equipment notes issued by Air Canada and secured by three Boeing 787-9 aircraft, three Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, one Boeing 777-200LR and nine Airbus A321-200 aircraft. The two tranches of certificates have a combined aggregate face amount of US$553 million ($740 million) and a weighted average interest rate of 5.73 per cent. Air Canada used the proceeds from this financing together with cash on hand to repay in full the US$600 million ($803 million) 364-day term loan originally put in place in April 2020 and discussed in Air Canada’s second quarter 2020 MD&A.
  • In September 2020, Air Canada concluded a committed secured facility totaling $788 million to finance the purchase of the first 18 Airbus A220 aircraft. As aircraft are financed under this new Canadian dollar facility, the bridge financing of $788 million put in place in April 2020 (and discussed in Air Canada’s second quarter 2020 MD&A) will be repaid concurrently. At September 30, 2020, nine Airbus A220 aircraft were financed under this facility with the corresponding bridge financing repaid.
  • In early October 2020, Air Canada announced that it had completed sale and leaseback transactions for nine Boeing 737-8 aircraft for total proceeds of US$365 million ($485 million). The nine aircraft were delivered to Air Canada in the past three years.
  • Air Canada’s unencumbered asset pool (excluding the value of Aeroplan, Air Canada Vacations and Air Canada Cargo) amounted to approximately $1.8 billion following the closing of the transactions discussed above. As part of Air Canada’s ongoing efforts to maintain adequate liquidity levels, additional financing arrangements continue to be assessed.
  • Air Canada suspended share purchases under its Normal Course Issuer Bid in early March 2020 and did not renew its issuer bid upon its expiry in the second quarter of 2020.

Cost Reduction and Capital Reduction and Deferral Program

  • Air Canada initiated a company-wide cost reduction and capital reduction and deferral program for 2020, which has now reached approximately $1.5 billion, increased from an initial target of $500 million. On a capacity reduction of 81.7 per cent, third quarter 2020 operating expenses decreased $3.032 billion or 66 per cent from the same quarter in 2019, reflecting the significant progress made on both managing variable costs and reducing fixed expenses. Air Canada continues to seek additional opportunities for cost reduction and cash preservation.
  • Air Canada announced a workforce reduction of approximately 20,000 employees, representing more than 50 per cent of its workforce. This was achieved through layoffs, terminations of employment, voluntary separations, early retirements and special leaves.
  • Air Canada adopted the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) for most of its workforce effective March 15, 2020. In July 2020, the program was redesigned and extended until December 2020. In September 2020, the Government of Canada announced a further extension of the program to June 2021. Air Canada intends to continue its participation in the CEWS program for active employees, subject to meeting the eligibility requirements.
  • Air Canada is permanently retiring 79 older aircraft from its fleet – consisting of Boeing 767, Airbus A319 and Embraer 190 aircraft. Their retirement will simplify the airline’s overall fleet, reduce its cost structure, and lower its carbon footprint.
  • Air Canada concluded an amendment to the purchase agreement for Airbus A220-300 aircraft which became effective in early November 2020. As a result, Air Canada has deferred 18 aircraft deliveries over 2021 and 2022 and will not be purchasing the last 12 Airbus A220 aircraft. Air Canada expects to take delivery of five Airbus A220 aircraft in the fourth quarter of 2020.
  • In early November 2020, Air Canada also amended its agreement with Boeing to cancel 10 Boeing 737-8 aircraft deliveries from its firm order of 50 aircraft and to defer its remaining 16 aircraft deliveries over the late 2021 to 2023 period.
  • Through this fleet restructuring and other capital reduction initiatives, Air Canada successfully lowered its planned capital expenditures by approximately $3.0 billion for the 2020 to 2023 period compared to its projected capital expenditures at the end of 2019.

Third Quarter Summary

Air Canada recorded a net loss of $685 million or $2.31 per diluted share compared to net income of $636 million or $2.35 per diluted share in the third quarter of 2019.

At September 30, 2020, net debt of $4.973 billion increased $2.132 billion from December 31, 2019, reflecting the impact of net cash used for operating and investing activities in the first nine months of 2020. The unfavourable impact of a weaker Canadian dollar, at September 30, 2020 compared to December 31, 2019, increased foreign currency denominated debt (mainly U.S. dollars) by $141 million.

In the third quarter of 2020, net cash flows used in operating activities of $286 million deteriorated by $1.120 billion from the same quarter in 2019 on lower operating results, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the third quarter of 2020, net cash used in financing activities amounted to $332 million, an improvement of $33 million from the third quarter of 2019. Net proceeds from debt financings amounted to $1.101 billion. Reduction of long-term debt and lease liabilities of $1.433 billion in the third quarter of 2020 included lump-sum repayments of $1.177 billion.

In the third quarter of 2020, net cash flows used in investing activities of $644 million reflected an increase of $554 million from the third quarter of 2019, mainly due to movements between cash and short and long-term investments.

In the third quarter of 2020, net cash burn(1) of $818 million (or approximately $9 million per day, on average) was significantly better than management’s net cash burn expectations of between $1.35 billion and $1.6 billion (or between $15 million and $17 million per day, on average). This was due to a number of factors, including the deferral of certain capital expenditures, higher cash receipts related to the CEWS program, and additional working capital benefits resulting from both a deferral of supplier payments into future periods and from income and sales tax recoveries which had been forecast to occur in later periods.

Outlook and Major Assumptions

As indicated above, Air Canada plans to reduce its fourth quarter 2020 capacity by approximately 75 per cent from the same quarter in 2019. The airline will continue to dynamically adjust capacity and take other measures as required to account for health warnings, travel restrictions, quarantines, border closures globally and passenger demand.

Air Canada projects net cash burn of between $1.1 billion and $1.3 billion (or between $12 million and $14 million per day, on average) in the fourth quarter of 2020. This net cash burn projection includes $4 million per day in capital expenditures and $5 million per day in lease and debt service costs. When compared to the third quarter of 2020, the higher projected net cash burn in the fourth quarter of 2020 is due to a number of factors, including an increase in end-of-lease payments due to more aircraft being returned to lessors, stabilization of supplier payment deferrals affecting working capital, lower cash receipts related to the CEWS program, and a higher level of capital expenditures, in part due to additional scheduled Airbus A220 aircraft deliveries.

As discussed above, the Honourable Marc Garneau made public statements on November 8, 2020 related to aviation industry sector-specific support. Air Canada will provide an update when Government of Canada support arrangements have been finalized.

Air Canada Rouge Returns to the Skies Today

MONTREAL, Nov. 2, 2020 /CNW/ – The departure of Air Canada flight AC1810 from Toronto to Cancun today marked the return of Air Canada Rouge to the skies.

“Air Canada Rouge remains an important part of our overall strategy in rebuilding Air Canada’s global network. As leisure traffic resumes, we will progressively add Air Canada Rouge to select North American leisure markets from Eastern Canada,” said Mark Galardo, Vice President, Network Planning and Alliances at Air Canada.

Air Canada Rouge flights are operated with narrow-body Airbus aircraft featuring a choice of Premium Rouge and Economy services. Customers travelling in the Premium Rouge cabin will be offered a complimentary, pre-packaged meal curated by celebrated Montreal chef Antonio Park with complimentary bar and beverage service. All customers onboard Rouge flights will have access to complementary in-flight entertainment that is streamed right to their personal smartphone or device of choice without the requirement to download an app. Premium Rouge customers will also be offered the complimentary use of sanitized iPads containing entertainment content.

All flights are operated using the Air Canada CleanCare+ suite of biosafety measures. Customers can collect and redeem Aeroplan points through Canada’s leading loyalty program when travelling and eligible customers have access to priority check-in, Maple Leaf Lounges, priority boarding and other benefits.

More information about Air Canada Rouge flights can be found at: flyrouge.com

Air Canada CleanCare+, a leading biosafety program

Air Canada has been at the forefront of the airline industry in responding to COVID-19, including being among the first carriers globally to require customer face coverings onboard and the first airline in the Americas to take customers’ temperatures prior to boarding. It has introduced a comprehensive program, Air Canada CleanCare+, to apply industry leading biosafety measures at each stage of the journey. As well, to give customers flexibility, it has extended its goodwill policy so that new bookings made up to December 31, 2020 can be changed without fees for original travel up to December 31, 2021.

Aircraft are also equipped with HEPA air filtration, also used in hospital operating theatres, which are very effective at trapping microscopic particles as small as viruses and bacteria, as well as dust, pollen and moisture. Air in an aircraft cabin passes through the HEPA filter and is refreshed about 20-30 times per hour.

Science-based approach to advance biosafety measures

Air Canada has undertaken several medical collaborations to further advance a science-based approach across its business. The carrier most recently announced it is finalizing an initial order for Abbott’s newly approved COVID-19 rapid testing kits. Its medical collaborations include a partnership with McMaster HealthLabs and Greater Toronto Airport Authority to conduct a voluntary COVID-19 study of international travellers arriving at Toronto Pearson International Airport, with Cleveland Clinic Canada for medical advisory services, with Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience to explore portable COVID-19 testing technology and, since 2019, with Toronto-based BlueDot for real-time infectious disease global monitoring.

Select Maple Leaf Lounges open with biosafety measures in place

Air Canada welcomes eligible customers again to three of its Maple Leaf Lounges: one each at its Toronto Pearson and its Vancouver hubs, and at Calgary International Airport. The Maple Leaf Lounge experience has been completely re-thought with a range of industry-leading biosafety measures in place for the safety of customers and employees alike. Electrostatic spraying in the Maple Leaf Lounges is part of significantly enhanced cleaning procedures for additional peace of mind, as well as launching new touchless processes, such as the ability to order pre-packaged food directly to your seat from your smartphone. Additional information is at: aircanada.com/serviceoffering.

Air Canada’s transformed Aeroplan loyalty program relaunches Nov. 8

Beginning November 8, 2020, current Aeroplan accounts will seamlessly transition to the transformed program, including existing Aeroplan membership numbers. Aeroplan miles will be known as “Aeroplan points,” and existing balances of miles will be honoured on a one-to-one basis. New features include every seat for sale on every Air Canada flight will be available for flight rewards with Aeroplan points and no cash surcharges, predictable pricing, all-new Aeroplan credit card benefits, additional partners, and redemption for travel extras such as upgrades.

Full details can be found at www.aircanada.com/aeroplan

Masks, screening, vaccines: Airlines consider what a new normal might look like before people pack onto planes again

News from Calgary Herald -link to story

Emily Jackson  •  28 April 2020

A passenger wheels her luggage near an Air Canada logo at Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 1, 2020 in Toronto. COLE BURSTON/GETTY IMAGES FILES

As airlines around the world grapple with the financial fallout from grounding the vast majority of their fleets, pilots and cabin crews during the coronavirus pandemic, preliminary conversations are being held about what needs to happen before people start packing into airports and planes again.

Health and safety is top of mind for flight attendants as airlines start to discuss what the new normal might look like when full schedules are reintroduced, whenever that might be, said Wesley Lesosky, president of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“The discussion has to happen on what’s the standard going forward,” Lesosky said in an interview. “The practicality on a plane is you can’t have social distancing to the extent you’d want it — you can’t have that two-metre distance.”

As it stands, the 2,000 active members still flying for Canada’s largest airline and Air Canada Rouge — thousands more were placed on off-duty status as there’s no flights for them to serve — wear gloves, masks, glasses and gowns on flights loaded with hand sanitizer where food and bar service has been cut to a snack box and a bottle of water upon entering the plane.

CUPE is content with the equipment provided so far, although it continues to push for enhancements such as face shields, Lesosky said. But before normal operations resume, questions need to be answered about what gear will be provided and adopted on a longer-term basis.

Flight attendants and pilots unions alike praised Transport Canada for requiring all passengers to wear masks on board planes.

But attempts at social distancing on board a plane where customers are used to sitting inches apart poses a different challenge.

Some airlines including WestJet Airlines Ltd. have temporarily stopped booking middle seats to give passengers more room aboard flights, but airlines including Ireland’s budget carrier Ryranair DAC argue that selling only two thirds of seats isn’t a viable option if they want to make enough money to stay in business. Not to mention, passengers are still well within two metres of the passengers in front and behind them even if middle seats are empty.

Still, the Air Line Pilots Association Canada, which represents WestJet and WestJet Encore pilots, is calling on Transport Canada and the federal government for greater mandated protection for aircrews now and during the recovery.

“With no mandatory requirements in place to protect aircrews, they are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk every time they report for duty,” ALPA Canada president Capt. Tim Perry said in a statement last week.

An Air Canada Jazz pilot is seen leaving Toronto Pearson International Airport. COLE BURSTON/GETTY IMAGES FILES

The ALPA has called on the government to allow air crews to move through restricted airport areas and through customs separately from customers to minimize their exposure. It has also asked for better passenger screening prior to boarding and expedited testing for aircrews.

Other go-forward requirements are more intangible, such as a public that trusts it’s safe to get on a plane.

“One of the biggest concerns that we all have, not just airports, is consumer confidence,” said Canadian Airports Council president Daniel Gooch, whose organization represents Canada’s largest airports and many of its regional ones. “Public trust is one big factor.”

Airports are also brainstorming what changes need to be made before normal operations resume, whether that involves vaccines, social distancing or passenger screening. But it’s too soon to say what needs to happen as focus remains on the immediate losses to the sector, which might take longer to recover than other industries due to international travel restrictions, Gooch said.

Airports collectively expect to take a $1.8 to $2.2-billion hit this year as revenue dries up with passenger volumes that are expected to drop to 45 per cent of 2019 levels, Gooch said.

Separately, the National Airlines Council of Canada said Tuesday its members have seen a 90 per cent drop in capacity, as revenue has fallen and bookings for the rest of the year remain subdued given uncertainty surrounding travel restrictions.

Air Transat aircraft sit on the tarmac at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Air Transat aircraft sit on the tarmac at Toronto Pearson International Airport. COLE BURSTON/BLOOMBERG FILES

“The disruptions could also put at risk about 245,500 jobs in Canada and US$18.3 billion in GDP supported by the air transport industry and foreign tourists travelling to Canada by air,” the NACC said in a statement, noting that a number of projects and work with suppliers across its supply chain have been halted due to the pandemic.

“The economic impact of the pandemic is expected to continue materially for the remainder of the year and into 2021,” the NACC said.

Mike McNaney, CEO of the NACC, which represents Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet, said it wants Ottawa to introduce liquidity measures for the industry quickly, similar to efforts seen in the United States, Europe and Asia to support the aviation sector.

Ottawa has said in recent weeks that it’s working with airlines and planning ways to provide some form of relief for the beleaguered industry. Air Canada and other airlines have also adopted the government’s wage subsidy program to cut costs.

“Time is of the essence as the economic situation facing Canada’s airlines is deteriorating rapidly,” NACC said in a statement. “The greater the economic damage to the industry, the less competitive and poised for recovery it will be as other countries provide significant direct financial aid to their own carriers.”

Financial Post

Hundreds of airline employees in quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19

News provided by The Globe and Mail – link to story and updates

ERIC ATKINS TRANSPORTATION REPORTER, PUBLISHED MARCH 30, 2020

A small number of travellers use kiosks to check-in for Westjet flights at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Sunday, March 15, 2020. Darryl Dyck/The Globe and MailDARRYL DYCK/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Hundreds of Canadian airline employees are in quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19 and at least 14 have tested positive for the virus, prompting calls for better protection and training from the unions representing flight attendants and pilots.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents flight attendants, is calling on airlines and the federal government to provide flight crews with face shields and gowns in addition to better training on the safe use of masks and gloves to prevent more employees from contacting the virus. Airline employees need access to COVID-19 tests with quick results and greater separation from passengers at airports, said the Air Line Pilots Association, which represents pilots at WestJet, Air Transat and several smaller domestic carriers.

“Air crews are taking significant personal risks by continuing to report for duty. We need immediate action from the government so that air crew exposure to COVID-19 is minimized,” Tim Perry, a WestJet pilot and vice-president of the association, said.

Wesley Lesosky, president of the CUPE Air Canada Component, which represents Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge’s flight attendants, said the union knows of some cases of COVID-19 among flight attendants, but the total number is not available yet. “Too many of our members are risking their health and their safety carrying out their duties to bring Canadians home,” Mr. Lesosky said by phone from Vancouver.

“They’re incredibly concerned that they could bring the virus home. They’re incredibly concerned that they are finding out so late [that] somebody on their flight” had the virus, he said.

Flight attendants are required to go into a 14-day paid period of quarantine if there is a confirmed case of the coronavirus on their flight. There have been 188 flights in Canada – 122 international and 66 domestic – with a COVID-19 case from March 13 to March 20, according to the federal government. The vast majority were operated by Air Canada. The company declined to say if any employees had tested positive.

Based on rough estimates of eight flight attendants for each international flight and four on a smaller domestic plane, there could be at least 1,000 flight attendants who were quarantined a result.

WestJet said seven of its employees have been infected with COVID-19, but declined to say what part of the business they worked in. At Air Transat, five flight attendants and two pilots have tested positive, and more than 200 of the Montreal-based carrier’s employees are in quarantine.

“Whenever there is exposure, the entire [cabin] crew is quarantined,” said Christophe Hennebelle, a spokesman for Air Transat, which has suspended its international commercial flights and is operating so-called repatriation flights on behalf of the government for Canadians stranded abroad. “It is not possible to know the contamination source with certainty,” Mr. Hennebelle said. “It might be on board, during a layover or in Canada.”

Sunwing Airlines said “privacy reasons” prevented it from disclosing if any of its employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The airline referred The Globe and Mail to a government of Saskatchewan website that said 23 flights in Regina or Saskatoon between March 5 and March 21 had a confirmed COVID-19 case on board. Three of these flights belonged to Sunwing.

Transport Canada was not immediately able to say how many airline employees had COVID-19, nor did it respond to questions about making protective gear mandatory for cabin crews.

Flight crews are an essential service and exempt from mandatory quarantines that apply to people who have been outside the country. However, doctors, dentists and other medical professionals will usually refuse to see airline employees because of their travel history and the risk they may have the virus, said Mr. Lesosky of CUPE, which represented about 15,000 Canadian flight attendants overall before the start of the pandemic.

The airlines say they provide gloves and masks to flight crews, and disinfect the airplanes, and are in compliance with Transport Canada and Public Health of Canada regulations.

“We scrupulously follow instructions from the public health agencies, such as questioning the passengers or disinfecting the planes, and protection kits, including masks and gloves, are available aboard every plane,” Mr. Hennebelle said of Air Transat.

Morgan Bell, a WestJet spokeswoman, said employees are not required to wear masks, but they are permitted to do so, in addition to any other personal protection equipment they wish.

CUPE: Air Canada Flight Attendant Union Responds to Sweeping Layoffs Due To COVID-19 Pandemic

Provided by CUPE/Business Wire

VANCOUVER, British Columbia–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The union representing Air Canada flight attendants is deeply saddened to learn that the company will temporarily lay off approximately 3,600 of its members at Air Canada mainline, and all 1,549 of its members at Air Canada Rouge.

Earlier this week, the company announced it would significantly reduce flying capacity due to diminished demand and government-ordered border closures caused by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. The layoffs announced today are effective until April 30, 2020 at the earliest, but the union is hopeful that conditions in the industry improve and allow the airline to begin bringing flight attendants back on-board.

“This has been the most challenging time any of us will likely ever experience as flight attendants,” said Wesley Lesosky, President of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents roughly 10,000 flight attendants at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge. “Our members have been on the front lines of this crisis since day one, and it has been a tough journey ever since. Our hearts go out to all of our members, especially those who fell sick while doing their job.”

The union has confirmed that members being laid off – or facing “off-duty status” – will be able to collect Employment Insurance, and also access benefits. The union also pledged to assist laid-off members with their next steps, and to work diligently to bring them back once conditions in the industry stabilize.

More than 5,100 Air Canada flight attendants to be laid off amid massive COVID-19 slowdown

New provided by CBC News – link to full story and updates

About half of flight attendants for main airline and Air Canada Rouge will be affected

Bethany Lindsay, Desmond Brown · CBC · Posted: Mar 19, 2020

The union representing Air Canada flight attendants confirmed more than 5,100 flight attendants will be laid off. (Air Canada)

Air Canada is set to lay off more than 5,100 members of its cabin crews because of a dramatic drop in flights related to the COVID-19 outbreak, CBC has learned.

According to a March 19 letter from Renee Smith-Valade, the airline’s vice president of in-flight service, says Air Canada has “no choice” but to cut staff, calling the move “difficult but necessary.”

The Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents Air Canada flight attendants, confirmed the news, saying the layoffs will affect about 3,600 Air Canada crew members and all 1,549 of its members who work for the airline’s Rouge subsidiary.

That represents about half of the 10,000 crew members currently employed at Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge.

“This has been the most challenging time any of us will likely ever experience as flight attendants,” Wesley Lesosky, CUPE’s president of the Air Canada component, said in a press release.

“Our members have been on the front lines of this crisis since day one, and it has been a tough journey ever since. Our hearts go out to all of our members, especially those who fell sick while doing their job.”

Smith-Valade’s memo says that Air Canada’s planned flights for April have been cut by nearly 80 per cent as governments around the world have asked their citizens to stay home in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19. She said she hopes the layoffs will only be temporary.

According to the union, the layoffs will be effective until at least April 30. Those affected will be able to collect employment Insurance.

Air Canada’s mainline flight attendants are based in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. 

Launch of Air Canada Rouge’s first international flights from YQB

Provided by Aéroport de Québec/CNW

QUEBEC CITY, Dec. 21, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada Rouge’s first international flight out of YQB flew to Cancún, Mexico this morning. Surrounded by a colourful decor and environment, passengers were treated to a warm welcome from Stéphane Poirier, President and CEO of YQB; David Rheault, Managing Director – Government and Community Relations at Air Canada; and Guy Marchand, General Manager – Eastern Canada Sales for Air Canada Vacations.

De gauche à droite :

Agents de bord, Air Canada Rouge
Jean-Luc Tremblay, chef de secteur des ventes – Québec
Stéphane Poirier, Président et chef de la direction de YQB
David Rheault, directeur général des relations gouvernementales et avec les collectivités chez Air Canada 
Père Noël et jeunes voyageurs 
Agents de bord
Gary Doucet, Chef d'escale, Air Canada (CNW Group/Aéroport de Québec)
De gauche à droite : Agents de bord, Air Canada Rouge Jean-Luc Tremblay, chef de secteur des ventes – Québec Stéphane Poirier, Président et chef de la direction de YQB David Rheault, directeur général des relations gouvernementales et avec les collectivités chez Air Canada Père Noël et jeunes voyageurs Agents de bord Gary Doucet, Chef d’escale, Air Canada (CNW Group/Aéroport de Québec)

“We are thrilled that Air Canada has chosen to strengthen its presence in Québec City by offering international flights from YQB. By improving its winter service and adding flights to sun destinations, the airline is responding to the needs and requests of people in Québec City,” stated Stéphane Poirier, President and CEO of YQB. “This announcement is the result of a successful and profitable partnership between Air Canada and YQB,” he added.

Air Canada Rouge’s flights to Cancún began this morning and will end on April 11, 2020. Flights to Punta Cana will begin on December 22, 2019, and end on April 12, 2020. These routes are flown by an Air Canada Rouge Airbus A321 in a 200-seat all-economy configuration.

FlightDepartureArrivalDay
AC 1776Québec City, 08:00Cancún, 13:00Saturday
AC 1777Cancún, 14:00Québec City, 18:30Saturday
AC 1772Québec City, 08:20Punta Cana, 13:50Sunday
AC 1773Punta Cana, 14:50Québec City, 18:30Sunday

“We are delighted to offer these non-stop services to our customers in Québec City so they can treat themselves to a winter getaway in Cancún or Punta Cana. We are adding these new routes to meet an anticipated demand from customers in Québec’s capital. We also hope to give them the chance to enjoy incredible vacations,” stated Mark Galardo, Vice-President – Network Planning at Air Canada.

Air Canada Completes Installation of Satellite Connectivity Across Full Air Canada Rouge Fleet

Provided by Air Canada/CNW

MONTREAL, Dec. 17, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada said today that Rouge Wi-Fi high-speed satellite-based connectivity provided by Gogo is now available across the entire Air Canada Rouge fleet of 65 aircraft that fly globally and across North America.

Air Canada Completes Installation of Satellite Connectivity Across Full Air Canada Rouge Fleet (CNW Group/Air Canada)
Air Canada Completes Installation of Satellite Connectivity Across Full Air Canada Rouge Fleet (CNW Group/Air Canada)

“Customers now can access Rouge Wi-Fi high-speed internet connectivity on their own devices whenever they are onboard an Air Canada Rouge aircraft anywhere in the world, giving everyone the ability to stay connected to email, surf the web, or stream their favourite movies and TV shows from services like Netflix and YouTube. We are excited to now offer fast, reliable wi-fi options onboard all Rouge aircraft for the increasing numbers of customers seeking connectivity when flying,” said Andrew Yiu, Vice President, Product at Air Canada.

Customers can choose from a selection of Wi-Fi packages to suit their requirements with starting prices of $8.50 CAD simply by connecting to the “Rouge Wi-Fi” network onboard and following the instructions.

In addition to the full Air Canada Rouge fleet, satellite based Wi-Fi is already available on all Air Canada Boeing 777s, and most Boeing 787s and Airbus A330s with the remainder to be completed early 2020. Air Canada Wi-Fi connectivity is also available across the carrier’s entire mainline narrow body fleet and the Air Canada Express Embraer 175 and Bombardier CRJ-900 fleets. Air Canada’s new Airbus A220 fleet which it begins taking delivery of before the end of 2019 will come equipped with satellite based wi-fi.