Three dead after float plane crashes near Edmonton airport: Mounties

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By The Canadian Press, Fri., July 3, 2020

LEDUC COUNTY, ALTA.—RCMP say three people have died in a plane crash south of Edmonton.

Mounties say they were alerted Friday morning that a float plane went down in a field in Leduc County east of the Edmonton International Airport.

Three bodies were found in the wreckage.

Cpl. Laurel Scott said it’s believed no one else was on the aircraft.

A manager at the nearby Cooking Lake Airport said the plane’s owner, who is from the area, had gone up with an experienced flight instructor to learn how to use new amphibious floats on the light utility Murphy Moose.

Sophie Wistaff, a spokesperson with the Transportation Safety Board, said two investigators were to arrive in the afternoon at the crash site.

She said she could not provide other details.

RCMP said officers and firefighters were holding the scene.

Self-isolation rules still apply to N.W.T, Nunavut residents travelling by air to Yukon

News from CBC News – link to story

Self-isolation is only waived for those that can come straight to Yukon through B.C.

Anna Desmarais · CBC News · Posted: Jul 02, 2020

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference regarding the start of the territory’s Phase 2 recovery plan on July 1. (Government of Yukon)

Northerners travelling to Yukon via southern airports outside of British Columbia will still have to self-isolate upon arrival, according to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver.  

On July 1, premier Silver extended the Yukon-B.C. travel bubble to include those from the N.W.T and Nunavut — only if they travel from their territory to Yukon or through British Columbia. 

Data from Google Flights shows that all Air Canada flights from Yellowknife to Whitehorse will have layovers either in Edmonton or Calgary, Alta., on route to Vancouver. Flights from Iqaluit to Whitehorse often travel through Ottawa or Winnipeg to get to the territory. 

In those cases, Premier Silver said northern residents arriving by air with layovers in provinces like Ontario and Alberta will have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. 

‘Making our decisions … not just on geography’

“We’re making our decisions not necessarily just on geography or ease of getting here but also epidemiology,” Silver told reporters.

“At this time, we … are opening ourselves as well, knowing full well that it’s pretty hard for someone to come directly from Nunavut into Yukon.”

The N.W.T announced a new travel bubble with Nunavut on June 12 as part of its Phase 2 reopening plans. The move struck down the self-isolation requirement for people travelling between the territories.

Yukon was initially excluded from the travel bubble because of its plans to loosen self-isolation requirements with British Columbia. 

N.W.T. residents are still required to self-isolate for 14 days upon return from Yukon. 

Premier recommends reserving charters 

Silver said the travel bubble would directly benefit residents of Fort McPherson, N.W.T. — the closest community to Yukon along the Dempster Highway.

Residents of Tsiigehtchic, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., are also able to drive directly into Yukon via the Dempster.

Communities in the Dehcho, including Fort Liard, Nahanni Butte and Fort Simpson, N.W.T., would also be able to travel into Yukon through British Columbia without having to self-isolate. People looking to drive into B.C. through the N.W.T.’s Highway 7 will have to make an appointment to cross the border either on a Tuesday or Friday. 

But, Silver continued, travel to Yukon from other parts of the territories “isn’t impossible.” He recommended that people consider chartering flights if necessary, but reinforced the message that travel should still be limited into the territory. 

“You could charter from Inuvik or smaller communities and you’d be allowed to if you could come in,” Silver said. 

Anyone travelling to Yukon is asked to go to Yukon.ca to figure out if they meet the self-isolation requirements. 

No direct flights to Whitehorse until mid-August

Air North, Yukon’s main commercial airline, wrote on its website that its Whitehorse-Yellowknife-Ottawa route will be starting up again on Aug. 15. Once that flight is available, northerners could fly from Yellowknife to Whitehorse without having to self-isolate. 

Kelly Lewis, a spokesperson for Canadian North, said in a statement that the N.W.T.’s main commercial airline will not be adding any direct flights between Yellowknife and Whitehorse during the northern travel bubble, because Yukon’s capital city is not in their purview. 

Canadian North is, however, adding a new flight from Yellowknife to the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut that will help residents travel between the N.W.T and Nunavut, Lewis said. The popular Yellowknife-Rankin Inlet route will not be reinstated in the meantime based on recommendations from the Nunavut government — but Lewis said they’re looking into it. 

“We understand that this is a routing that some people would like to see return so we will look at options to do so when the time is right,” the statement reads. 

‘Not entirely a bubble’ 

Julian MacLean, a dietitian living in Inuvik, will be one of the first people taking advantage of the new northern travel bubble this weekend. 

MacLean said he’s making the time to do the hours-long, 1,200-kilometre drive down the Dempster Highway to Whitehorse to do some vehicle maintenance and grocery shopping before a possible second COVID-19 wave.

“Restrictions will probably get tighter again, so if I don’t go now, I probably wont be able to go later,” MacLean told CBC. 

Maclean said his employer is letting him take the self-isolation time in the N.W.T. upon arrival as leave — but for many others, the N.W.T.’s self-isolation requirements upon return make travel less appealing.

279 N.B. call centre, airport staff among WestJet layoffs

News from CBC News – link to story

Company announced Wednesday it had permanently laid off 3,333 employees

CBC News · Posted: Jun 25, 2020

WestJet announced Wednesday it was permanently laying off 3,333 workers, 279 of which are based in New Brunswick. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

More than 270 WestJet employees in New Brunswick were let go as part of the mass layoffs the Canadian airliner announced Wednesday.

The company announced it laid off 3,333 employees permanently, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions as the reason for the cuts. 

Of the 279 affected New Brunswick workers, 253 are in Moncton, where the company shut down its call centre.

In a statement to CBC News, WestJet confirmed that all of its call centres will be consolidated in the company’s home in Calgary. Other centres in Halifax and Vancouver are now closed, too. 

Fifteen WestJet employees at the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport and 11 staff at the Fredericton International Airport have also lost their jobs.

However, the closures have not impacted WestJet flights at either airport.

In a video issued by WestJet on Wednesday, CEO Ed Sims said all domestic airport operations will be contracted out, except Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto. 

“We will seek to find a suitable partner who can provide high airport service levels through their commitment to hire as many of our affected WestJetters as possible,” Sims said in the video.

The company had 14,000 staff before pandemic border closures and travel restrictions grounded two-thirds of its fleet. Only 4,500 employees are currently on the payroll, and the company says it’s looking to bring back 5,500 employees temporarily laid off.

Year-over-year international passenger numbers have plummeted to a fraction of pre-pandemic travel, leading airlines to lay off thousands of employees.

With files from Gary Moore

Four-point COVID-19 recovery plan identified for Edmonton International Airport

News from Global News – link to story and video

By Scott Johnston 630CHED, Posted June 24, 2020

WATCH ABOVE: (May 31, 2020): One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) Saturday afternoon. For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours.

It’ll likely be three years before Edmonton International Airport fully recovers economically from COVID-19. CEO Tom Ruth recently met with city council’s COVID recovery task force, and laid out a four-point plan to get things back to normal.

A motion to have Mayor Don Iveson write the provincial and federal governments to assist with the recovery will be up for debate in early July after it was introduced this week.

EIA is asking that the province put its debt for capital projects on hold for 18 months, that the federal government waive fees for three years, that overseas flights resume as soon as possible and that promotional work resume to assist the local hospitality industry.

Ruth told Global News the recovery at the airport has turned the corner. Passenger traffic was down 95 per cent in May from normal levels. It’s now down 90 per cent.

To help cover, they’ve reduced capital spending from what was supposed to be $100 million, down to $20 million. The operations budget was cut by $50 million and that included layoffs of 40 per cent of staff.

The airport is responsible, Ruth said, for 29,000 direct and indirect jobs in Metro Edmonton, with a $3.2-billion economic impact in normal times.

“So differing the loans, maybe for 18 months or so, which will be a big, big help for the recovery,” he said. “We want to make sure we have financial strength that when things recover, we’ll be able to do a lot of the capital projects that we need to do to create jobs and will help our airport grow.”Watch: WestJet adding more flights in July, but where are Albertans permitted to travel?

The rental fee the feds charge is something Ruth said all airports are hoping can be dropped for the foreseeable future.Z

“That was waived this year and all of the airports in Canada would like to see the federal government wave that for three years ahead. In our case, under a normal year, that’s a $20-million payment to the federal government.”

In March, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau limited international travel to Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver airports. It was a restriction that was supposed to end June 30.

“That restriction is still in place,” Ruth said. “It doesn’t look like it’s going to be ending June 30. It’s a real issue for us. We’re the fifth-largest airport in Canada. We have international carriers that would love to fly back into Edmonton and we think it’s important to work with Transport Canada and other authorities federally to get that restriction lifted.”

He said airlines like KLM, Condor, Iceland Air and WestJet — with its summer London service — are wanting to resume service.

The one silver lining in EIA’s business is on the cargo side of things. Ruth credits “blessings” in geography and infrastructure as helping Edmonton’s business case.

He’s pointing to the deep sea port in Prince Rupert that allows ships to cut their travel time from Asia by a day-and-a-half. Edmonton by rail is the closest major city, so EIA has been able to build the warehouse infrastructure to transfer cargo to its next destination, either by air or by truck, as the QEII Highway has access all the way into Mexico.

Cargo handling is up 58 per cent, and Ruth said Edmonton is gaining prominence as the largest cargo handling airport in Canada.

Ruth is optimistic that slowly things are rebounding in the recovery phase.

“We’re seeing a lot of flights being loaded in our system from the major carriers, particularly Air Canada and WestJet in our July schedule. So that is encouraging that those flights are being loaded in. This is going to be along recovery but if it’s a steady recovery, we’ll be able to help during the entire process.”

The final portion of Iveson’s motion for the July 6 council meeting calls for “shovel-ready projects” so EIA can expand its air cargo facilities, and have the province work on expansion of the interchange at 65 Avenue SW.

In October, EIA penned a deal to work with Drone Delivery Canada to create the first “airport drone delivery hub” using Edmonton airspace to build flight routes.

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

WestJet releases July schedule to get Canadians exploring again

From WestJet, an Alberta Partnership

Airline continues to focus on significant safety and hygiene enhancements to ensure a safe travel journey

CALGARY, AB, June 15, 2020 /CNW/ – WestJet today released its updated July schedule, developed to allow Canadians the pleasure of summer travel while economically supporting communities across the country in safely reopening travel and domestic tourism. In addition, the airline has added flights to select U.S. markets.

To ensure guests can book with confidence, the airline maintains its stringent Safety Above All hygiene program and continues to provide flexibility in booking, change and cancellation policies.

“Today’s schedule reflects our commitment to orderly and safe travel while providing steps to allow Canadians to get out, explore, and take part in critical economic activities like staying in hotels, eating out, visiting tourist attractions or simply just travelling to see friends and family,” said Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “Governments and Canadians from coast-to-coast are working together to lessen the impact of this pandemic and we are grateful that these efforts have put us in a position to add more options for travel this July.”

From July 5 through August 4, 2020, WestJet will offer operations to 45 destinations including 39 in Canada, five in the U.S. and one in Mexico an increase of approximately 102 per cent more flights from June, but down 76 per cent from July 2019.

Continued von zur Muehlen, “As we emerge from the pandemic, health vigilance must be balanced with the gradual reopening of our economy. WestJet has done our part and spent millions of dollars to ensure the safety and well-being of our guests and our people. We’re ready to get Canadians flying.”

On March 22, WestJet suspended its international and transborder operations. The airline’s schedule now contains flights to key transborder and international destinations including Los Angeles (LAX), Atlanta (ATL) and Las Vegas (LAS).

“Jurisdictions around the world are opening, allowing citizens to begin flying once again which is kickstarting their economies for recovery. We’ve heard from the communities we serve and look forward to having Canadians safely participate and stimulate domestic tourism this summer,” stated von zur Muehlen.

At this time, the airline is planning on operating the following domestic routes and frequencies from July 5 – August 4.

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One of world’s biggest cargo planes lands at Edmonton International Airport

News from Global News – link to story

BY NICOLE STILLGER GLOBAL NEWS | Posted May 30, 2020

One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport Saturday. For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours.
 One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport Saturday. For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours. Nicole Stillger / Global News

One of the biggest cargo planes in the world made a stop at the Edmonton International Airport (EIA) Saturday afternoon.

For the first time, three Antonov AN-124 aircraft arrived at EIA within 24 hours.

“It’s a bit of a bright spot for us in a time when we are in this long, temporary downturn on passenger travel,” EIA president and CEO Tom Ruth said.

There are only 55 of the behemoths worldwide.

It has four turbofan engines and more than 20 tires. It can carry 150 tonnes — or 23 elephants.

The plane doesn’t make an appearance in Edmonton that often.

Ruth said it’s all part of their air cargo strategy.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“Edmonton is becoming more and more known as a North American air cargo gateway,” Ruth explained. “We’ve invested a lot of time and strategy and energy on being that air cargo hub.”

Passenger traffic generates 90 per cent of EIA’s revenue, but it’s down about 95 per cent right now.

Less than two weeks ago, the airport was forced to lay off 40 per cent of its staff.

Ruth said since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, cargo charter business has doubled.

“We’ve seen this continuing growth with air cargo, particularly this year, even with the downturn with the pandemic,” he said.

“Our air cargo numbers are up, even though globally they’ve been down.”

The airport noted, because of client confidentiality, the exact manifest, details and volumes of each cargo plane cannot be released.

Many of the charters are carrying things like personal protective equipment (PPE) and e-commerce deliveries because of online shopping.

Ruth said with more flights expected in the coming weeks, it shows the demand is there.

“We’ve seen this accelerated pace of air freight, so the fact we have three of these [planes] on the ground on the same day shows we are moving lots more air cargo,” he said.

“It’s really a critical component in the future. Air cargo is only two per cent of the volume of goods shipped around the world, but it’s 35 per cent of the value — so if you’re growing air cargo, you’re creating a lot of air pipelines throughout the world.”

Ruth said air cargo is critical not only to the local economy but across the region.

With average passenger traffic levels not expected to return for at least another three years, he said these flights are bringing some much-needed activity.

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

Workforce reductions announced at Edmonton International Airport

From Edmonton International Airport

May 20, 2020 (Edmonton, AB) – The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a crippling effect on airports and the aviation industry, and as a result Edmonton Airports has been forced to reduce our workforce by up to 40 per cent. This is expected to impact up to 100 union and non-union positions at the airport. Edmonton Airports has officially served notice to our union and these workforce reductions are expected to begin after June 30, 2020.

Last year, EIA moved 8.15 million passengers; in 2020, it is forecast to move approximately 2.7 million passengers. Passenger traffic has reduced by approximately 95 per cent and the airport is not expected to return to 2019 passenger traffic levels until at least three years from now. Revenues have declined by approximately 90 per cent in the last two months. There is no choice but to reduce labour costs in line with the new passenger traffic reality. This will safeguard the future of our airport and its role as a not-for-profit economic catalyst in our region.

Edmonton Airports already undertook a series of aggressive cost cutting measures and examined all other alternatives before implementing workforce reductions; for example, offering voluntary unpaid leave and voluntary early retirement incentives for employees. Additionally, capital spending was cut by 75 per cent to cover only essential safety and regulatory projects and non-labour costs were reduced by 50 million dollars.

“This is a difficult and sad day for Edmonton Airports, and we regret having to take these steps. Our employees are the foundation of our organization and our contribution to our communities, and we feel this loss profoundly”, said Tom Ruth, President and CEO, Edmonton Airports. “Our critical operational and financial challenges demanded that we take this course of action to ensure we can continue to provide our region with key services including passenger, cargo and air ambulance flights.”

Edmonton Airports is passionately focused on our mission to develop economic prosperity for our region, and it is extremely difficult to share this update. This news deeply impacts people and our communities. It is only after exhausting every other possible action that these steps were taken to protect the airport’s ability to continue operating and enable a future recovery.

We want to acknowledge, with deep gratitude, the contributions that Edmonton Airports employees have made to our organization and surrounding communities. We will unfortunately be losing great employees from our workforce who have contributed to expanding air services for our region, provided a caring passenger service program, created jobs and prosperity, and earned an outstanding international industry reputation for Edmonton. While there will now be a smaller operating structure going forward, we will redouble our efforts to fulfill our mission of creating economic prosperity for our region during the eventual recovery phase from COVID-19.

Snowbirds – 16 May Videos

NEW | Link to Snowbirds ~ Operation Inspirationn Full Schedule

This post will be updated with Kamloop’s videos after they become available.

Special Photo from the 15 May 2020 – Edmonton YEG

From 15 May…

Airports hammered by COVID struggle to survive; $2B in losses predicted

News from CTV News – link to story

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press Staff ~ Published Thursday, April 30, 2020

Toronto Pearson International Airport

People carry luggage at Pearson International Airport in Toronto in this file photo dated Dec. 20, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch

TORONTO — Clobbered by anti-pandemic measures that have stifled travel and grounded much of the world’s commercial aviation, Canada’s airports are predicting around $2 billion in lost revenues this year.

The isolation of would-be travellers, border closures and flight cancellations have led to a precipitous decline in demand for plane tickets and, by extension, airport services.

“Our airports have seen traffic and revenues plummet significantly — an average of about 90 per cent,” said Daniel-Robert Gooch, head of the Canadian Airports Council, which represents 100 airports. “Looking ahead to the end of the year, airports anticipate year-end revenues to be down about 55 per cent from where they would have been, even more at smaller airports.”

The bottom line, Gooch said, were anticipated losses of between $1.8 billion and $2.2 billion.

Globally, commercial air traffic shrunk 41 per cent below 2019 levels in the last two weeks of March alone, according to Flightradar24.com. Canada, too, has been hit hard.

Emergency isolation measures, including the closure of the U.S.-Canada border and stay-home directives, brought the rush of normal air traffic to a crawl. At least six regional airports, from Saint John, N.B. to Prince Rupert B.C., have lost scheduled passenger service altogether.

At Canada’s largest airport, Toronto Pearson International, plummeting passenger traffic has left normally bustling, frenetic terminals looking like gleaming ghost towns. About 5,000 passengers are moving through the facility each day, down from a normal 130,000, the airport said.

Tori Gass, with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said the number of flights has dropped from an average of 1,300 per day to about 350.

“There are approximately nine passenger airlines operating at Pearson compared to 67 airlines that were operating previously,” Gass said.

Several Canadian carriers, such as Porter Airlines and Sunwing, stopped regular flights altogether. Larger carriers, such as Air Canada and WestJet, have been limping along on drastically curtailed passenger loads, waiting along with everyone else for the pandemic skies to clear. That’s unlikely to happen any time soon.

“We anticipate the recovery to be protracted — faster at larger hub airports than elsewhere in the system — with passenger traffic in 2020 at only about 60 per cent of 2019 levels,” Gooch said.

Canada’s airports generate about $19 billion for the country’s economy and employ 194,000 people.

The sharp traffic reduction has forced airports, normally major economic hubs in their own right, into cutting mode. Some, like Calgary and Edmonton, have partially closed terminals. The airport in Windsor, Ont., suspended all commercial flights. Other measures include cutting employee wages or hours, or outright layoffs.

On Thursday, for example, Vancouver’s airport authority, which employs about 500 people across operations, finance, engineering, human resources and other sectors, became the latest to offer staff voluntary layoffs.

Gooch said about a dozen municipal and territorial airports appeared to be ineligible for the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which would allow others to avoid immediate layoffs. Either way, he said, airports were struggling to cover costs, with borrowing their way through the crisis only punting the problem down the road.

While freight traffic has risen, the increase has barely offset the losses.

“Cargo aircraft movements are a fraction of normal passenger aircraft movements at most airports, and cargo doesn’t pay airport improvement fees, park at the airport, shop in the stores or eat in the restaurants,” Gooch said.

The industry, Gooch said, was hoping the federal government — already a financial life-support system for millions of Canadians and businesses — will offer loan or bond guarantees along with interest-free loans repayable over a longer period.

Airports also want Ottawa to scrap ground rents to allow them to conserve cash, focus on operations, and pay off debt acquired during the pandemic. Smaller airports need funding for essential operating expenses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on April 30, 2020.