Since March 13, 158 flights have come into Canada with a confirmed case of COVID-19 on board

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

ERIC ATKINS, TRANSPORTATION REPORTER PUBLISHED APRIL 1, 2020

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said repatriation flights were necessary, saying returning travellers – one seen here at Toronto Pearson International Airport on March 27, 2020 – must go into isolation to avoid exposing others to the virus that has killed more than 110 and infected more than 9,600 people in Canada.CHRIS YOUNG/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The number of flights into Canada bearing people with confirmed infections of COVID-19 continues to rise, including two repatriation flights for Canadians stranded abroad amid pandemic travel restrictions.

There were 158 international flights to Canada between March 13 and March 27 on which at least one person was found to be infected with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Two of the flights, from Ecuador on March 27 and Peru on March 26, were Air Canada repatriation flights organized by Ottawa to bring home Canadians stranded after international borders closed and flights were cancelled because of civil aviation restrictions intended to limit the spread of the virus. Others were commercial flights in which the government played no role.GLOBE BACKGROUND45 SEC READMy job has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. What do I do now?

Airlines that operate the flights say they are complying with Ottawa’s request for help, and are subjecting passengers to government-mandated health questionnaires but are not qualified – nor required – to take a passenger’s temperature.

The union representing flight attendants says the workers need better protection from the virus, including properly fitted gloves, surgical gowns, N95 masks and face shields, as well as training of the use the equipment.

More than 1,000 flight attendants who worked flights with COVID-19 on board have been put into 14-day quarantines in recent weeks, said Wesley Lesosky, head of the Air Canada component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“It’s out of control,” Mr. Lesosky said.

Global Affairs, which organizes the repatriation flights operated by commercial airlines, said about 10,000 people have come home in the past two weeks. Six flights from Africa and Europe were scheduled to land on Wednesday, with more flights from Poland, Pakistan, Hungary and other countries planned over the next week.

The federal government’s public-health message for Canadians has been to stay home if you are a non-essential worker. For Canadians abroad, the message has been to get home.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday said repatriation flights were necessary, saying returning travellers must go into isolation to avoid exposing others to the virus that has killed more than 110 and infected more than 9,600 people in Canada.

When he announced Canada’s international border would partly close on March 18, Mr. Trudeau urged Canadians to fly home and asked airlines to check passengers. However, he said people with COVID-19 symptoms would not be permitted to return and were eligible for financial assistance abroad.

“We want Canadians to come home,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters on Wednesday. “But we also very much expect and demand that they keep themselves and their neighbours safe by self-isolating in rigorous conditions for two weeks as soon as they get home. We would much rather be able to have people home than have them stranded elsewhere around the world where things are getting worse.

“In Canada, we try to look out for each other,” Mr. Trudeau said.

As of March 21, more than 420,000 Canadians abroad registered with the government for travel and emergency notices, including rescue flights home amid the pandemic. This is an increase of 72 per cent from a year ago.

As of Wednesday, there were 391,000 registered, as travellers have been returning.

On March 13, the government told Canadians to avoid non-essential international travel and warned they might have trouble getting a flight home, obtaining consular services and be subject to strict quarantines.

The border closing announced on March 18 was expanded on March 20 to include the U.S. border, except for trade. As of March 30, Canadians flying domestically are also subject to health checks by airlines.

Eighty-two domestic flights since March 13 have had COVID-19 on board, according to government data.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams said he believes the global spread of COVID-19 caught a lot of people off guard, and many people did not return to Canada in time.

“At the same time, they are Canadians – their systems are here, their health system, as well as their physician,” he said. “If they do develop COVID-19, we’ll give them the best care we can, and of course we want to make sure it doesn’t spread to other family members.”

Because people can have the coronavirus for days without showing symptoms, people boarding planes may not know they are carrying the virus.

Christophe Hennebelle, a spokesman for Air Transat, said the airline’s employees have been complying with federal rules and asking passengers about cough, fever and respiratory troubles in addition to looking for symptoms.

“We have not checked anybody’s temperature, since we are not qualified nor authorized to do so,” said Mr. Hennebelle, referring questions about the appropriateness of the flights to the government and public health agencies.

Peter Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for Air Canada, said the airline is assisting the government to return Canadians, many of whom are in urgent need of getting home.

“In many of these cases, Canadians abroad were on short-term trips and are therefore not prepared for long stays, often lacking even certainty as to their accommodation,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said. “There is no requirement for our employees to take passengers’ temperatures and I would further note our staff are not trained medical professionals.”

With a report from Laura Stone

Families of Flight 752 victims report threats, acts of intimidation — and blame Tehran

News provided by CBC News – link to Video, story and updates

‘This is the motivation for the rest of my life. Nobody can scare me or stop me’: Javad Soleimani

Ashley Burke · CBC News · Posted: Apr 05, 2020

Javad Soleimani’s wife Elnaz Nabiy died in the destruction of Flight PS752 on Jan. 8. (Supplied)

Family members in Canada who have criticized Iran’s government after losing their loved ones in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 say they’re being targeted with threats and intimidation — and they blame Tehran.

Global Affairs is aware of “reports” of victims’ families “being approached in Canada in situations which have caused them concern,” according to an email the department sent to families that was obtained by CBC News. A government task force has warned families to immediately call police if they feel unsafe.

Iran has admitted its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps ‘mistakenly’ shot down Flight 752, killing all on board, including 55 Canadian citizens. Canada is among the nations pressing for compensation for families of the victims.

The email doesn’t say whether authorities suspect anyone in particular is approaching family members — but multiple families tell CBC News they fear it’s people close to the Iranian regime.

Canada’s new special adviser to the federal government on the aftermath of Flight 752, Ralph Goodale, said it’s “critically important” that families report threats or acts of intimidation to police.

“Canadian citizens and permanent residents in Canada should not have reason to fear for their safety or the integrity of their very existence in this country,” said Goodale, who was appointed by the prime minister earlier this week.

‘You are a traitor’

Hamed Esmaeilion of Richmond Hill, Ont., has already gone to the RCMP. His wife and daughter were killed when Flight 752 was shot down on Jan. 8 shortly after it took off in Tehran. After the disaster, he said, he received a stream of hateful messages from a man whose Facebook account said he was located in Toronto.

“He’s asking me why I’m acting against the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]. He said, ‘You are a traitor to your homeland,'” said Esmaelion. “He was very insistent. He was doing that every day.”

After talking to other victims’ families and learning he wasn’t his unnamed persecutor’s only target, Esmaelion contacted police.

The RCMP says it can’t comment on individual cases, but said it’s “aware of allegations of intimidation of the grieving families of the PS752 and deplore any such actions.”

Hamed Esmaeilion lost his wife Parisa Eghbalian and their nine-year-old daughter Reera in the downing of Flight 752. (Supplied)

Across the country in Edmonton, the parents, younger brother and aunt of Amir Hossein Saeedina allege they were forced to flee Iran — first to Turkey, then to Canada in February — because of threats from Iranian authorities after they spoke out about his death on Flight 752.

Intimidation from a distance

The aunt claims agents of the Iranian regime detained her, abused her and warned her to keep her family silent. “The worst things that could happen to a person in those 24 hours … they did to me,” Fatemeh Latifi told CBC News through a translator on March 5.

But even in Canada, where they’re filing for refugee status, they claim Tehran hasn’t forgotten about them. Reza Akbari of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton said government officials visited Saeedina’s grandparents in Iran and asked them why their family was betraying their country.

“And threatening them if they continue talking and speaking out … they will detain all of their personal belongings,” said Akbari. “That threat exists.”

Edmonton PhD student Javad Soleimani, who lost his wife in the disaster. said he got an hour-long phone call from someone claiming to be a high ranking official with the Iranian regime after he criticized the government online.

‘I don’t want to stop’

When he refused to take down an Instagram post criticizing Iran for keeping its commercial airspace open the night Flight 752 was destroyed, the regime contacted his family in Iran and put pressure on them, he said.

“When someone from the government calls you and then two days after that puts pressure on my family, this is a threat,” he said.

“I don’t want to stop. I’m allowed to seek justice. I’m alive to actually talk about this catastrophe, to criticize the government. This is the motivation for the rest of my life. Nobody can scare me or stop me.”

Esmaeilion said he feels the same way. He’s living in an empty house without his wife and daughter. Every day feels like the day he found out they were dead, he said.

“I myself am not scared of anything,” he said. “I have nothing to lose.”

WATCH VIDEO: Ralph Goodale, Canada’s special advisor to Flight PS752 probe, says the government is seeking justice for the downing of Flight 752. 

Feds have brought home over 8,000 stranded Canadians amid COVID-19 pandemic

News provided by CTV News – link to story and updates

Rachel Gilmore, CTVNews.ca Writer Published Friday, April 3, 2020

OTTAWA — In its push to bring home Canadians stranded abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has so far repatriated more than 8,000 Canadian citizens and permanent residents on 56 flights.

Those numbers, which were provided to CTVNews.ca through a source from Global Affairs Canada, are also likely to increase, though the source wouldn’t say by how much.

“As the situation is fluid, and as other flights may be announced in the coming days, it is not possible to provide exact information on how many Canadians are set to/will return, how many and from which countries,” the source said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne confirmed on Thursday that there are flights scheduled to bring home Canadians from around the world in the next few days.

“In coming days, other flights will allow Canadians to return from Peru, Colombia, India, Pakistan, Poland, Cuba, Trinidad and Tobago, and from various African countries,” Champagne said during a Thursday press conference, while speaking in French.

In a press release sent to CTVNews.ca Friday evening, Global Affairs said 385,182 people are registered with the government as currently being abroad. As a result, Global Affairs said the government won’t be able to help everyone.

“Unfortunately, it will not be possible to ensure the return of all Canadians who wish to come home,” the release reads.

“Canadians that are unable to return to Canada should monitor local media and follow local public health advice on lockdown or shelter-in-place guidance.”

For the Canadians that are able to make it home, they will be forced to follow a strict self-isolation period of 14 days — a message that was reiterated in the Friday press release. These Canadians must travel straight home from the airport, without any stops to grocery stores, pharmacies or any other public spaces.

That isolation period is extremely important, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who has warned that these returning Canadians could be a real danger to the rest of the country.

“They pose a real risk, not just to their neighbours and their loved ones, but to our entire country. We need to ensure and we will ensure that those people are properly isolated,” Trudeau said Thursday, speaking from self-isolation on the front steps of Rideau Cottage.

“We’ve received many, many Canadians who have returned home over the past couple of weeks, there is still a few more to come.”

It’s a concern that was echoed on Friday by Dr. Peter Donnelly, President and Chief Executive Officer of Public Health Ontario.

While providing the modelling on the potential course the COVID-19 outbreak could take in the province, he explained that the number of cases will be impacted by travellers returning home — such as snowbirds returning from the United States.

“It’s very clear that in many parts of the Untied States, this disease is highly prevalent. So many of these people, again quite innocently, can travel back from the United States and perhaps don’t realize that they are carrying the disease,” Donnelly said.

“This is why these people must, must stay at home for two weeks. They must go directly to their home when they come from the airport or other port of entry. They should not be stopping to do shopping or anything else on the way home.”

While travellers were initially to blame for the vast majority of transmissions of COVID-19, community spread has now overtaken travel as the way most Canadians contract the illness, according to Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.This shift in the transmission of the disease underscores the importance for all Canadians, not just those retuning from travel, to self-isolate and physically distance themselves from others as much as they possibly can, according to health officials.

Canada has over 12,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 178 deaths. Just over 2,100 people have recovered.

U.S. airlines ordered to pay refunds for flights canceled by virus

News provided by BNN Bloomberg – link to story and updates

Alan Levin, Bloomberg News, Friday 3 April 2020

Airlines must fully refund airfare to passengers whose flights have been canceled during the outbreak of COVID-19, the U.S. Transportation Department ordered on Friday.

It is receiving a growing number of complaints from people who say airlines have refused to pay refunds after flights were canceled, the agency said in a press release and an enforcement notice.

“The obligation of airlines to provide refunds, including the ticket price and any optional fee charged for services a passenger is unable to use, does not cease when the flight disruptions are outside of the carrier’s control,” the agency said.

The directive applies to domestic and foreign airlines for flights to, within, or from the U.S. It applies when an airline “makes a significant schedule change and the passenger chooses not to accept the alternative offered by the carrier,” according to the department.

The order threatens to add more financial strain to an industry that is facing severe challenges from a dramatic plunge in demand even as it prepares to start receiving US$50 billion in loans and payroll assistance payments contained in a government bailout package.

As of Thursday, passenger traffic had fallen about 95 per cent compared with a year ago, according to the Transportation Security Administration. Only 124,021 passed through security that day compared with 2.4 million on the equivalent weekday in 2019.

In response, airlines have canceled thousands of flights a day and cuts are expected to remain for weeks or longer.

Instead of giving passengers their money back, they have been told by airlines they would only receive vouchers or credits for future travel, the department said in the release.

The rules requiring refunds have been in place for decades, according to DOT. They have been enforced after previous disruptions to the aviation system, such as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the agency said.

The trade group for major carriers, Airlines for America, issued a statement Friday saying its members are working closely with the government and Congress during the virus emergency.

“Since the early stages of the crisis, carriers have worked to increase communications with customers, as well as introducing travel policies to accommodate passengers during this health crisis,” the group said in a statement.

The trade group didn’t directly address the extent to which U.S. airlines have been unwilling to make refunds or whether any carriers are changing their policies.

Initially, the government is giving airlines the opportunity to comply with the law on their own, the Transportation Department said. “However, the Aviation Enforcement Office will monitor airlines’ refund policies and practices and take enforcement action as necessary,” it said.

Airline industry warns coronavirus crisis is bigger than 9/11 aftermath

News provided by The Star – link to story and updates

AKBy Anurag Kotoky, Bloomberg, Fri., April 3, 2020

Global air traffic demand fell 14 per cent in February, the most since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as airlines were “hit by a sledgehammer called COVID-19,” the International Air Transport Association said.

The decline reflects a record collapse in travel in China that month and a 41 per cent tumble in demand in the Asia-Pacific region, IATA said, warning that the situation has only grown worse.

“This is the biggest crisis that the industry has ever faced,” IATA’s director general Alexandre de Juniac said in a statement. “The impact on aviation has left airlines with little to do except cut costs and take emergency measures in an attempt to survive in these extraordinary circumstances.”

“This is aviation’s darkest hour and it is difficult to see a sunrise ahead.”

IATA, which represents some 290 carriers, said last month that airlines worldwide could lose $252 billion (U.S.) in revenue this year and burn through as much as $61 billion in the second quarter as travel slumps. Confirmed coronavirus cases globally have crossed one million with 53,000 deaths.

The full impact of the pandemic won’t be revealed until the March results, as many countries only started restricting travel last month. Airlines in the U.S., for example, had a strong February as domestic traffic jumped 10 per cent, though demand started to fall toward the end, IATA said. Domestic traffic in China slid 84 per cent in February, the worst figure since IATA began tracking the market in 2000, but it is now showing signs of improvement.

IATA has been lobbying for government bailouts as many carriers are quickly running out of cash because sales are suspended but their fixed costs remain. “Without additional government action today, the industry will not be in a position to help when skies are brighter tomorrow,” de Juniac said.

Beyond airlines, Boeing Co. expects thousands of workers to retire or accept a buyout offer as the Chicago-based plane maker races to shrink its operations, while Airbus SE is extending credit lines and has cancelled its dividend.

NAV CANADA reports February traffic figures

Received directly from NAV CANADA

OTTAWA, April 03, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — NAV CANADA announced today its traffic figures for the month of February 2020 as measured in weighted charging units for enroute, terminal and oceanic air navigation services, in comparison to the last fiscal year.

Traffic in February 2020 decreased by an average of 0.5 per cent compared to the same month in 2019. NAV CANADA’s fiscal year runs from September 1 to August 31.

Weighted charging units represent a traffic measure that reflects the number of flights, aircraft size and distance flown in Canadian airspace.

‘Don’t make us pay double’: Air fares for repatriation flights frustrate some Canadians

News provided by The Star – link to story and updates

By Jeremy Nuttall, Vancouver Bureau Fri., April 3, 2020

VANCOUVER—It cost Deborah Hamann-Trou about $700 for a roundtrip ticket from Vancouver to Lima, Peru and $1,750 one-way to get home. She’d like to know why.

Hamann-Trou is one of the Canadians who say that ticket prices being charged to get back to Canada on repatriation flights arranged by the government are too much and exceed the initial costs.

The costs are being defended by the government and Air Canada, saying flights are being operated at cost, with no money being made.

After taking a flight back from Peru on March 26, Hamann-Trou says she considers herself lucky to be home, but still thinks the costs weren’t fair.

“I understand the flight is coming to Peru empty, so they have to make up for that,” she said. “But it’s just the one way. Don’t make us pay double.”

She arrived in Peru on March 4, before any travel warnings about the country were issued, and was supposed to leave March 17. But the flight on Air Mexico was cancelled as COVID-19 fears spread around the world and Peru closed its borders.

To get back, she had to pay $1,408 for a flight to Toronto and then another $350 to get from there to Vancouver. Hamann-Trou isn’t the only one who’s perplexed.

Back in Toronto, Gaurav Dania says his parents were hoping to get out of India and back to Canada on charter flights arranged through the Canadian government. But, Dania said, the $2,900 price is quite steep.

“I could understand if it was $1,500 to $1,600 per passenger considering the planes to India might be coming with no passengers, so essentially we pay for round trip,” Dania said. “But they are charging $2,900. Four times the cost of one way. My own parents went for $1,550 round trip.”

After the airline ticket fee there are also hotel fees, transport and credit card charges associated with the journey. So his parents have decided to stay in India.

Another Ontario resident, Naila Waheed, told the Star she was originally quoted $3,500 per ticket to fly home from Pakistan on a special flight, but was told later the flights were cancelled.

She said two more special flights at $2,800 per ticket left Pakistan for Canada and she has booked one on a regular airline for April 10. But the flight requires driving the 1,400-kilometre trip from Islamabad to Karachi to catch it.

Meanwhile, Hamann-Trou said her cousin, a Peruvian national, was flown home by the Peruvian government from Miami. The Times of Israel also reports residents of the country were repatriated from Peru at no cost. She said it seems Canadians are being charged too much.

But whether the fees charged for flights to Canadian residents are fair depends on who you ask.

Air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs says fees being more expensive than usual isn’t illegal but, given the situation, could be considered questionable.

Lukacs stressed that if flights were cancelled by airlines subject to Canadian law being used to repatriate Canadians, those who were supposed to be on them should be able to use their credits from flights cancelled due to COVID-19 to get on repatriation flights.

He said that according to Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations, passengers are owed a spot on the next available flight if theirs is cancelled due to circumstances beyond the airline’s control.

“I’d very happy if regulators were enforcing the law,” Lukacs said. “But they’re not.”

He said though one-way tickets are usually more expensive than return tickets, in this case no return flights are available.

Air Canada, which organized the flights out of Peru with Ottawa, disagrees flight credits should be applied to repatriation flights and said it is keeping the costs as low as it can.

Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said because the repatriation flights are specially arranged between the airline and the federal government, the normal regulations do not apply.

“These special flights are not regular Air Canada flights, but rather we provide a service together with the government, offering our aircraft and crews, and facilitate booking (which is primarily done by local embassies, which contact Canadians locally),” Fitzpatrick said in an email. “That’s why credits are not valid in these cases.”

He said Air Canada is not making money from the flights and is sending empty planes to pick up Canadians.

Krystyna Dodds, spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, said the government has worked out a deal with airlines ensuring flights are operated at cost.

“The Government of Canada is working with Canadian airlines to ensure that stranded Canadians are offered a reasonable commercial price for their return ticket home,” Dodds told the Star. “Costs may vary depending on the airline and the location from where the flight is departing.”

She said those who cannot pay should apply for an emergency loan through the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad.

Lukacs said he cannot find anything in the legislation indicating that repatriation flights are exempt from the usual regulations.

USDA Forest Service for Next Generation Large Air Tanker Services Contract Awarded to Coulson Aviation

Provided by Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc/CNW

PORT ALBERNI, BC, April 2, 2020 /CNW/ – Coulson Aviation USA has been awarded a multi-year contract with the USDA Forest Service for Next Generation Large Air Tanker Services throughout the United States. The contract beginning in 2020 will see the first Boeing 737, Tanker 137 in operation.

737 FIRELINER - Tanker 137 (CNW Group/Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc.)
737 FIRELINER – Tanker 137 (CNW Group/Coulson Aviation (USA) Inc.)

Coulson Aviation is the first in the world to modify Boeing 737’s into FIRELINER’s which utilize a new advanced delivery system specifically designed for this application, the RADS-XXL/2. To convert a 737 into a FIRELINER takes over 43,000-man hours and includes the RADS-XXL/2 installation, avionics upgrades, full strip and re-paint, new interior, and 72 refurbished passenger seats. Once complete, the FIRELINER is differentiated from all other Next Generation Large Airtankers by its ability to transport firefighters without re-configuration and to fly at maximum speeds and altitudes with a load of retardant and no restrictions.

“This firefighting repurposed Boeing 737 was designed, manufactured and had the installation of the tanking system done in house which is a testament to the creativity of our teams led by Britt Coulson.” Wayne Coulson, CEO Coulson Group “I could not be prouder of our Company based on all the dedication, hard work and commitment of teams to design, manufacture, build, operate and maintain this superior air tanker. Both our Lockheed C-130’s and Boeing 737 FIRELINER’s played keys roles in saving homes and lives in Australia this past devastating fire season which we are all proud of.”

“The FIRELINER is truly the Next Generation of Next Generation Large Airtankers” said Britt Coulson, President and COO Coulson Aviation. “The FIRELINER’s are a perfect complement to our C-130’s and having a diverse fleet assures our customers always have the right airtanker for the mission.” 

Coulson Aviation has over 36 years of experience in aerial fire suppression and the Coulson RADS Firefighting Systems were designed to make firefighting easier, safer and more effective than other systems. We are excited to continue supporting the USDA Forest Service with this essential service during the US fire season.

Here’s where the Canadian travellers are – worldwide – amid the global pandemic

News provided by The Star – link to story and updates

By Nicholas Keung, Immigration Reporter Thu., April 2, 2020

Canadian travellers around the world were caught off guard when Canada closed its border last month in light of the escalating threats of the global COVID-19 pandemic. Many were left scrambling to get back to the country as airlines rapidly reduced international flights.

More than a million Canadian citizens and permanent residents heeded Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call and returned home by air and land in the first week of the border closure.

Since then, a series of repatriation flights have been arranged with the help of the federal government, which has negotiated with airlines and foreign diplomats for exemptions to travel restrictions.

As of Wednesday, Global Affairs Canada said there were 391,451 travellers on its Canadians Abroad Registry.

For a glimpse of the spread of Canadian travellers worldwide, take a look at these numbers, showing the distribution across the continents — at least as of March 30. Not all of these Canadians have requested help to come home; and not all Canadians abroad are registered.

Sorry for more information on the numbers and locations, please click here to open The Star page

New Brunswick airports to lose millions in revenue as a result of COVID-19 pandemic

News provided by Global News – link to story and updates

BY TIM ROSZELL GLOBAL NEWS ~ Posted April 2, 2020

News: Moncton doctor says it’s important to put COVID-19 into contextclose video 

WATCH: Airports in New Brunswick say they are pleased the federal government is providing rent relief this year. But they say that’s only a drop in the bucket of what they need recover from millions in projected losses due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Tim Roszell reports.

Representatives say a recent announcement from Ottawa relieving them of their rent responsibilities for the rest of this year is merely a drop in the bucket of the support they need.

Monette Pasher, executive director of the Atlantic Canada Airports Association, said passenger traffic in airports in the region is only five to 10 per cent of what it was a year ago.

“We’re projecting our region’s airports are going to lose upwards of $118 million in operating revenue this year, so it’s quite substantial,” she said.

Many airlines have reduced or eliminated their flights to New Brunswick.

Fredericton International Airport Authority President and CEO Johanne Gallant said it’s down to five flights in and out. It’s projecting a 70 per cent decrease in revenue — so far.

Revenue at Greater Moncton Romeo LeBlanc International Airport is expected to drop around 50 per cent, between $8 million and $9 million, according to president and CEO Bernard LeBlanc.

Saint John Airport CEO Derrick Stanford said it will lose about $2 million, and that’s if a modest schedule of commercial traffic resumes in a couple of months.

Right now, he said, it’s quiet.

“Now that most Saint Johners are home and in self-quarantine, you’re seeing a lot of the traffic dry up,” Stanford said. “By the end of the week, we’ll have no more commercial flights for the rest of April.”

They all say they can withstand the losses through reserve money, delaying or scrapping capital investments and limiting other costs.

But they say assistance from the federal government is necessary, too.

“While we can, and have, reduced our operating budget significantly, there are fixed costs that we simply can’t change,” Gallant said in an email to Global News.

“We have a building and runways to maintain and we must ensure the continued safety and security of our employees and travellers.”

Ottawa offered a small lifeline this week by waiving rental fees for airport authorities across Canada, a move that is estimated to save airports more than $300 million.

But rent is based on revenue, which is plummeting. For smaller airports, like the ones in New Brunswick, the rent relief may not help at all.

LeBlanc said Moncton was expecting to pay about $500,000 in rent this year before the COVID-19-related cancellations. Now he believes that rent will be about $90,000.

“Rather than having to pay the government the money, and get reimbursed later, we don’t have to pay it,” LeBlanc said.

“We’ve already paid the rent that’s probably due this year.”

Pasher praised the federal government for its quick response to issues affecting airports, but she wants Ottawa to confirm airports will be eligible for the federal wage subsidy program.

“Definitely, eligibility for this wage subsidy program, the emergency wage subsidy program, is going to be very crucial in the short term,” Pasher said.

“So is cash flow relief, in the short term, for some of our small airports.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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