Air Canada Outlines Route Cuts: Many Caribbean, Hawaii and Europe Flights Suspended

From TravelPulse Canada – link to source story

JIM BYERS  JANUARY 14, 2021

Spotlight on Paris
Paris

The pandemic and ongoing travel restrictions are forcing Air Canada to suspend some of their most popular flights, at least temporarily.

In a memo sent to TravelPulse Canada, Canada’s largest airline outlined the details of the 25% capacity reduction they mentioned in a Wednesday statement. The list contains 44 temporarily suspended flights, including 12 domestic, 10 trans-border (USA) and a full 22 international routes.

Popular flights that are being temporarily discontinued include Toronto-Quebec City, Montreal-Orlando, Toronto-Tampa, Vancouver-Puerto Vallarta, Montreal-Barbados, Calgary-Maui, Toronto-Paris and Toronto-Saint Lucia.

It’s a blow to Air Canada workers and to Canadians, as well as tourism workers in the Caribbean and around the world. It’s also a difficult pill to swallow for beleaguered travel agents, who now have a lot fewer destinations they can sell. But airline officials say they’ve been left with no choice.

Effective Jan 23, this is a list of the stations closed and routes suspended until further notice:

Additional airport stations closed in Canada:

  • Fredericton NB
  • Gander NL
  • Goose Bay NL
  • Yellowknife NWT
  • Kamloops BC
  • Prince Rupert BC

Additional domestic routes suspended

  • Fredericton–Montreal
  • Gander–Halifax
  • Goose Bay–Halifax
  • Kamloops-Vancouver
  • Ottawa-Calgary
  • Ottawa-Vancouver
  • Prince Rupert-Vancouver
  • Quebec City-Toronto
  • St. John’s-Toronto
  • Victoria-Calgary
  • Winnipeg-Calgary
  • Yellowknife-Edmonton

Transborder routes suspended

  • Calgary to: Maui
  • Montreal to: Denver, Houston, Orlando
  • Toronto to: Houston, Orlando, Tampa, Washington (Dulles)
  • Vancouver to: Honolulu (until April), Maui (until mid-February)

International flights suspended

  • Montreal to: Barbados, Casablanca, Cozumel, Samana, San Jose (Costa Rica), Santa Clara, Turks & Caicos, Nassau, Sao Paulo, Puerto Vallarta
  • Toronto to: Cozumel, Curacao, Ixtapa, Los Cabos, Paris, Saint Lucia, Santa Clara, St. Vincent, Zurich
  • Vancouver to: Los Cabos, Mexico City, Puerto Vallarta

Air Canada on Wednesday said it will have to reduce capacity by 25% and lay off 1,700 workers due to a lack of demand.

Since the implementation by the Federal and Provincial Governments of these increased travel restrictions and other measures, in addition to the existing quarantine requirements, we have seen an immediate impact to our close-in bookings and have made the difficult but necessary decision to further adjust our schedule and rationalize our transborder, Caribbean and domestic routes to better reflect expected demand and to reduce cash burn. We regret the impact these difficult decisions will have on our employees who have worked very hard during the pandemic looking after our customers, as well as on the affected communities,” said Lucie Guillemette, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada.

WestJet last week reduced capacity by 30% per cent and announced layoffs and furloughs for 1,000 workers.

Air Canada’s new Montreal-Bogota service starts Jan. 16

From TravelWeek – link to source story

Air Canada’s new Montreal-Bogota service starts Jan. 16

Friday, January 15, 2021 | Posted by Travelweek Group

MONTREAL — Starting Jan. 16 Air Canada will operate a new weekly flight from Montreal to Bogota.

The new B787 route is in addition to Air Canada’s existing year-round flights from Toronto to Bogota.

ProColombia, the government entity in charge of promoting tourism to the country, says Colombia is set to continue supporting this market’s growth throughout the recovery process. Canada has been Identified as a key market for the Colombian capital.

ProColombia notes that both Air Canada and El Dorado International Airport, Bogotá have introduced extensive and comprehensive measures to ensure that visitors feel safe and confident when travelling.

Bogota’s El Dorado International Airport is just one of three airports worldwide to be awarded the highest rating in biosafety issues, receiving five stars from the British firm Skytrax’s audit, which evaluated the measures taken by airports to combat the spread of coronavirus. Meanwhile Air Canada’s CleanCare+ program has been in place since May 2020.

“We celebrate the launching of this new route with the Canadian market and we consider it an important step towards seeing our tourism industry back on track,” says Flavia Santoro, President of ProColombia.

She adds: “This direct flight with Montreal also opens a door for new business opportunities that will allow us to keep positioning Colombia as a strategic commercial ally for Canada. It is also worth mentioning that Colombia is the first Latin American country in creating a Tourism Biosafety Certification with the support of both the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Travel and Tourism Council. The message for all international travellers is that Colombia is a safe, biodiverse, charismatic and a culturally rich destination ready to welcome you.”

1,500 flights and rising as Canadians seek sunny escapes despite surging COVID-19 crisis

From CBC News – link to source story

Government advice to avoid ‘non-essential travel’ lacks clear definition

Dave Seglins, Joseph Loiero, Roberto Rocha · CBC News · Jan 15, 2021

Tourists walk on the beach in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images)

Thousands of Canadians are thumbing their noses at government advice to stay home and hopping international flights to sunny destinations even as the COVID-19 crisis worsens in many parts of the country, CBC News has found.

Canadian air carriers operated more than 1,500 flights between Canada and 18 popular vacation destinations since Oct. 1, even as caseloads rise and the health crisis deepens.

It has prompted many questions from Canadians about why there is no outright travel ban, especially given recent high-profile resignations and firings involving politicians, doctors and civic leaders who’ve taken vacations outside the country.

“With the new state of emergency and recent lockdown measures, why hasn’t the government considered restrictions for airline travel either international or even Canadian travel between provinces?” asked Brenda LacLaurin of Ottawa, who contacted CBC News.

“How are people still travelling for leisure?” asked another audience member. “Every official says it saves lives to stay home, yet people can get on a plane and fly to Florida? WHY is the airport not closed to outgoing travel?”

While international travel is permitted, the federal government has been advising Canadians for nearly a year to avoid all “non-essential travel” outside the country without offering a clear definition or tools for authorities to prevent it. 

Mexico, Jamaica top the list

CBC News tracked Canadian non-stop flights to and from popular resort destinations using data from Flightradar24.com between Oct. 1, 2020, and Jan. 16, 2021.

Of the 1,516 flights analyzed, some of the most popular routes departing from Canada included 214 flights between Toronto and Montego Bay, Jamaica, and 183 flights between Montreal and Cancun, Mexico.

CBC excluded all known cancelled flights, as schedules continue to change.

WestJet announced last week it is scaling back operations, suspending several routes to sunny destinations, including flights from Edmonton and Vancouver to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, “as the airline continues to face volatile demand and instability.”

Air Canada says its overall network capacity — the number of seats it makes available for sale — is down 80 per cent compared with 2019. In an emailed statement, an airline spokesperson took exception to questions about the volume of flights resuming to vacation destinations.

“The real issue here is we need to restart travel safely in Canada as it is very important to the economy, with hundreds of thousands of jobs dependent on it both directly and indirectly,” said Air Canada’s Peter Fitzpatrick.

Flight tracking by CBC News shows that despite a dramatic drop last spring, air traffic from eight Canadian airports to Mexico and the Caribbean is on the rebound.

Raywat Deonandan, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Ottawa, says the data suggests a small portion of the Canadian public is choosing to disregard public health advice, putting themselves and the countries they visit at risk.

“I try not to judge people. Everyone’s got their reasons,” he said. “Maybe they need, you know, some kind of stress relief.”

WATCH | Deonandan on the need to cut out travel: 

Travel rates ‘worrying,’ epidemiologist says

However, he said, for that many people to be knowingly acting against public health advice, there is likely some selfishness at play. 

“This sense that my need for recreation is greater than the need of the population to remain safe.”

Deonandan says banning travel could prompt backlash and civil disobedience, and would be a “hard sell” politically and economically, especially given an end to the pandemic is in sight with the introduction of vaccines.

But, he says, to prioritize public health, the government should have been much clearer and directed Canadians from the beginning on what does — and does not — constitute essential travel.

“I think a good rule of thumb is if the primary purpose of your travel is recreation, it should not be permitted,” he said, noting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control lists almost every Caribbean vacation destination as Level 4, or very high risk for COVID-19.

‘No formal restriction’

Health Canada provided CBC News with several links to its advice, none of which defines essential travel. 

The federal government asks Canadians to “avoid non-essential travel outside Canada,” but on its website says, “it is up to the individual to decide” what that includes.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford acknowledged this week the lack of clarity on the matter is causing confusion as he laid out details of the province’s new stay-at-home rules.

“I know that essential means different things to different people. We have 15 million people in Ontario, each with their own individual circumstances,” Ford told a news conference on Tuesday.

CBC News also asked each province and territory how they define essential travel.

Quebec, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island did not respond.

ManitobaB.C.New Brunswick and Nunavut all offered some descriptions of essential and non-essential travel, with Northwest Territories providing the clearest examples of what to avoid.

“Vacation purposes — like going to a beach or ski resort, shopping and visiting family members where there is no extenuating circumstances at-hand,” the government’s statement says.

Roving musicians Los Compas serenade a couple on the shore of Mamitas Beach in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Mexico saw a holiday bump in tourism despite the ongoing pandemic. (Emilio Espejel/The Associated Press)

Saskatchewan, Ontario, Newfoundland and Labrador, Yukon and Alberta offered no definitions, with Alberta noting provinces are powerless to keep people home.

“There is no formal restriction prohibiting such travel or punitive measures in place at this time,” wrote a provincial spokesperson.

‘A steep gamble’

The Public Health Agency of Canada has flagged potential COVID-19 exposures on almost 500 international flights since Dec. 1, 2020. Of those, 87 flights were to or from the southern vacation destinations used in the CBC’s analysis.

While known cases in Canada linked to international travel represent only one per cent of the country’s overall case count, experts caution that still represents 4,239 exposures and contacts tied to a traveller.

Canada recently beefed up screening at airports and last week imposed a new requirement for all inbound travellers to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Experts say those tests are not 100 per cent reliable and that people should not assume they can control their exposures abroad.

“You cannot control who is in the airplane with you. You can’t control the nature and the environment of the airport when you arrive. You can’t control the hygienic quality of the taxi that you take from the airport to your destination,” said Deonandan, who implored Canadians to think of the common good before travelling abroad.

“It is a steep, steep gamble that I don’t think is worth taking,” he said.

About the data

CBC News collected one year’s worth of data from Flightradar24.com for 169 routes between Canadian international airports and 18 destinations in popular vacation spots, mostly in Mexico and the Caribbean. Only direct, non-cancelled flights were examined. In all, 5,628 flights were analyzed, 3,042 inbound and 2,586 outbound. The data was collected on Jan. 9 and includes scheduled flights up to Jan. 16.

Although Flightradar24 is recognized as an authoritative source, there could be errors or omissions in the data, which isn’t guaranteed to be 100 per cent accurate.

With files from Alex Shprintsen, Madeline McNair, Albert Leung

Air Canada Boeing 737-8 MAX suffers left-hand engine failure on return to service flight

From Aviation24.be – link to source story

By Bart Noëth – 25 December 202

On 22 December, an Air Canada Boeing 737-8 MAX (registered C-FSNQ) was returning to the air after storage at Marana Pinal, Arizona, United States for a flight to Montreal, Canada. The aircraft carried no passengers, only 3 crew members. 

Just after take-off, the crew received a left engine hydraulic low pressure indication. The crew and airline dispatch/engineering controllers initially decided to continue to Montreal but the crew received an indication of a fuel imbalance from the left-hand wing and shut the left hand engine down. The crew declared a PAN PAN emergency and diverted to nearby Tucson for a safe landing.

Canada’s OWG launches with initial flight to Cuba

From FlightGlobal.com – link to source story

By Pilar Wolfsteller | 18 December 2020

Link to Photos from Toronto Pearson arrival and departure (in our 2020 Photo Album)

The inaugural revenue flight of new Canadian airline OWG has taken off from Toronto’s Pearson International airport, headed to Santa Clara Abel Santamaria airport in Cuba.

The airline is a project of Canadian passenger and freight charter carrier Nolinor Aviation, which announced plans to launch the new brand in July, in the middle of the coronavirus crisis.

According to flight tracking website Flightaware.com, flight N5730 left Montreal’s Trudeau International airport at 11:11 local time, arriving in Toronto at 12:08 local time. It then left Toronto at 13:23 local time, and is due to land in Cuba about three hours later. It was unclear if the flight from Montreal to Toronto was also a revenue flight or if the aircraft had been repositioned. 

An OWG representative confirmed by email this is the airline’s first scheduled flight, but further details were not immediately available.

OWG-737-400-sky-island
Source: OWG / Nolinor Aviation

OWG launches initial scheduled flight from Canada to Cuba

The Montreal-based carrier, which has been operating charter and specialty flights across Canada’s far north for almost three decades, said on 7 July that it was looking to take a slice of the holiday travel market from Canada’s established market leaders.

Nolinor said at the time that it had acquired several Boeing 737-400s with 158 seats earlier this year for OWG, and on 6 July received permission from the government of Canada to launch international service. The airline had been “secretly working since 2018 to create a new airline that will position them in the tourist flight market”. It said it had invested “more than $1 million in a think tank to reinvent the way things are done in this industry”.

The result is an airline called OWG, which stands for “off we go”.

OWG’s planned launch date had been pushed back due to the global health pandemic. Initially, the company said flights would begin on or near 31 August.

Sunwing announces restart of flights to Cuba with weekly service to Varadero

TORONTO, Dec. 11, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Sunwing has announced that flight service to Cuba will resume on December 13, 2020, on board Sunwing Airlines, with weekly flights departing from Toronto and Montreal to Varadero on Sundays. Vacationers can return to this Canadian-favourite destination and travel with peace of mind knowing that the highest Canadian standards are in place throughout their entire vacation experience with the Safe with Sunwing commitment, created under the advisement of global healthcare leader Medcan.

“Our customers have been eagerly awaiting our return to Cuba and we’re excited to be bringing them back to this popular island under our wing,” said Samantha Taylor, Chief Marketing Officer at Sunwing Travel Group. “Cuba has been a favourite vacation destination of Canadian travellers for over 50 years. We have brought many Canadians to this beautiful destination in the past and we’re happy to help sun-seekers make their much-anticipated return to Cuba safely and responsibly.”

Canadians make up a vast majority of Cuba tourist arrivals when compared to all countries, and with the country’s crystal-clear waters, rich history and white-sand shores it’s easy to see why. Sunwing brings more vacationers to Cuba annually than any other tour operator in the world, and the destination is one of the most popular among the tour operator’s vacation portfolio.

There are Cuban vacation packages for every style. Travellers planning a family-friendly vacation can choose to stay at Iberostar Selection Bella Vista Varadero, a Sunwing favourite resort that overlooks a pristine stretch of white-sand beach with plenty of exciting activities and convenient amenities. The property even offers rare swim-out suites, perfect for families that can’t get enough of the pool.

Vacationers looking for an adults only option can plan a getaway to Sanctuary at Grand Memories Varadero. This resort-within-a-resort is located just steps from the beach and offers exclusive facilities like a pool, restaurant and beach area with wait service. Guests can look forward to personalized butler service throughout their stay and enjoy full access to the wider Grand Memories Varadero complex.

Another popular choice on the white-sand shores of the Hicacos Peninsula is Starfish Varadero. This laidback resort offers plenty of fun in the sun with resort-offered activities like Spanish lessons, snorkelling and dance classes. Plus, downtown Varadero is just a short walk away where guests can embrace the local Cuban culture as they explore local shops and charming restaurants.

Vacationers can choose from flexible booking options including the ability to change or cancel their plans anytime with ease, convenient monthly payment options and complimentary Price Drop Cash Back of up to $800 per couple. Complimentary COVID-19 coverage is also included in packages booked by December 31, 2020, for departures between now and December 31, 2021.

YUL passengers will soon be offered rapid screening tests

MONTRÉAL, Dec. 7, 2020 /CNW Telbec/ – ADM Aéroports de Montréal and Biron Health Group Inc. are launching a pilot project to test a new rapid screening process for COVID-19 on departures from YUL Montréal-Trudeau International Airport to destinations requiring a negative result medical certificate for admission to their territory. These antigenic tests will make it possible to perform certified and rapid tests within 15 minutes.

This new service will initially be offered by reservation to travellers whose final destination is metropolitan France and who are taking a flight served by Air Canada, the initial partner of the project, Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines or Air Transat. Other destinations could be added to the pilot project. The screening will be carried out by Biron professionals in an area set aside for this purpose on the departures level of the airport terminal.

This initiative is part of a number of pilot projects already underway in the country, including the one conducted by Alberta and federal public health agencies at Calgary’s airport designed to reduce the 14-day quarantine period imposed on travellers entering Canada. ADM is in discussions to eventually offer the same type of tests to arriving passengers.

The ADM and Biron Health Group Inc. pilot project is consistent with the recommendations of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and respects the guidelines of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) on the implementation of robust screening measures aimed at allowing for a safe recovery of the airline industry, without compromising the public health efforts made to date.

In summary 

  • The pilot project will start on December 15 and will last for an initial period of 8 weeks;
  • The test using a nasal swab will be minimally intrusive and offered at a cost of $149;
  • The antigenic test used by Biron is approved by Health Canada and recognized in France;
  • Tests are available by reservation only. Only passengers authorized to travel to France will be able to book an appointment;
  • Passengers authorized to travel to metropolitan France also have the option of going to a Biron service point, or to call the laboratory of their choice within 72 hours prior to their departure to obtain their negative screening certificate via a standard test (PCR) or will be required to be tested upon arrival in France at the airport;
  • All passengers participating in the pilot project will nevertheless need to continue to observe the mandatory quarantine period upon their return to Canada;
  • It is recommended that passengers check the travel restrictions in effect in their destination country. For more details on the terms and conditions of the project: https://yulsatisfaction.admtl.com/hc/en-ca/ 

Quotes

“The measures deployed as part of the Travel with Confidence program at YUL, such as taking temperatures and setting up health checkpoints at the three entrances to our terminal, have already proven to be effective. However, it is essential that further initiatives are put forward by airports, airlines and public health teams to ensure that travel is resumed. The pilot screening test project improves the procedures already in place and represents a decisive step in ensuring the safest possible travel for passengers. The industry must be innovative and adapt to a new reality, and ADM is proud to be contributing to this effort together with its partners.” – Philippe Rainville, President and CEO of ADM Aéroports de Montréal.

“The pandemic has had unprecedented impacts on our lives, the Québec economy, and even the entire world. While it is essential to maintain and focus on the public health efforts made to control the pandemic, it is also important to pay attention to the recovery of our economy at the same time. We are proud to be collaborating in this pilot project and to support our partners in the revival of airport activities and air transport by leveraging our laboratory expertise and the medical and scientific know-how of our professionals” – Geneviève Biron, President and CEO of Biron Health Group Inc.

“We are very pleased to be working with Aéroports de Montréal and Biron on this new initiative which will allow our customers flying to France to travel with confidence and peace of mind. Among all the measures based on a scientific approach put forward by Air Canada in recent months, the screening test at the airport is by far the most important. Rapid screening is an effective and responsible alternative that facilitates the safe relaxation of global travel restrictions and quarantine measures, while protecting the health and safety of the travelling public.” – Dr. Jim Chung, Chief Medical Officer of Air Canada.

“We are very proud of our collaboration with Aéroports de Montréal and Biron Health Group, which will help facilitate travel preparations for our customers able to fly to mainland France, whose entry requirements now include the presentation of a negative test result.  At Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, we value and care about the health, wellbeing and travel experience of our customers. We proactively entered into an agreement with Biron Health Group early on so that travelers could obtain their test results quickly to meet the requirements of their destination country. This new initiative offered right at the airport in Montreal is in line with our efforts to ensure travel in all serenity.”  – Catherine Guillemart-Dias, Vice-President and General Manager of Air France KLM Canada

“Since Montreal is our largest hub, it was only natural for us to participate in this pilot project and we are delighted to be able to offer this simple alternative to our customers who are travelling to France in greater numbers as the holiday season approaches. We warmly applaud this initiative, which supports our joint efforts to boost tourism by enabling us to develop effective and safe solutions that we hope will help ease the travel restrictions currently in place.” – Annick Guérard, Chief Operating Officer of Transat. 

About Aéroports de Montréal

ADM Aéroports de Montréal is the airport authority for the Greater Montréal area responsible for the management, operation and development of YUL Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, certified 4-stars under the Skytrax World Airport Star Rating program, and YMX International Aerocity of Mirabel.

About Biron Health Group

Founded in 1952, Biron is today a Québec leader in the health sector. Having first built its reputation through its medical laboratory expertise, it is recognized for the quality of its services, its exemplary execution and its speed of access. Over the years, Biron has diversified its service offering in medical imaging, sleep disorders, genetics and occupational health while maintaining the same level of excellence. Throughout its growth, Biron has remained a company with a human dimension that takes its role in the community to heart. Today, the company has close to 800 employees who operate more than 100 points of service in most regions of Québec. Its team of experts and dedicated professionals is increasing efforts every day to offer each client medical expertise through a process that is simple, fast and efficient. Biron Health Group is accredited by Accreditation Canada and holds an operating permit from the LSPQ. For more information on the company: biron.com

Construction of REM station at Trudeau airport eligible for funding under new government program

From Global News – link to source story and VIDEO

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s first mini-budget, unveiled on Monday, held some good news for Aéroports de Montreal (ADM).

The airport authority has been struggling to find funding to build a station at Trudeau airport in Dorval for Montreal’s light-rail train network, known as REM.

In a document outlining the Liberals’ multi-year plan to rebuild the economy battered by COVID-19, the government is proposing the establishment of a new $500-million transfer payment program.

The six-year investment aims to “support large airports in making critical investments in safety, security and transit infrastructure,” the Fall Economic Statement 2020 document reads.

The REM station is cited as a specific transit project that would be eligible for funding under the new program.

ADM had previously announced that it would pay for construction of the train station itself, but faced with pandemic-related revenue shortfalls estimated at $600 million for 2020 alone, it was forced to seek financing in the form of loans from both the federal and provincial governments.

In mid-November, however, after five months of negotiations, the Quebec government pulled out of talks.

At the time, Quebec Premier François Legault said it wasn’t the provincial government’s responsibility to pay for the station.

“It has to be payed by the owner. The actual owner, ADM, or the preceding owner which was the federal government,” he said.

“It doesn’t make sense that a big city like Montreal doesn’t have a station at their main airport. We can bring the REM to the airport but the station has to be paid either by ADM or by the federal government.”

Quebec has already invested $1.28 billion in the REM, not including $192 million for the implementation of mitigation measures, while Hydro-Québec has also contributed $295 million.

In an email to Global News, a spokesperson for ADM said the new program for airport infrastructure funding and other measures announced Monday, including the deferral of rent payments, will provide “some form of temporary relief to the country’s airport authorities.”

And despite welcoming the news, ADM stressed it does not “currently have the financial capacity to cover the costs associated with the REM station at Montreal-Trudeau airport, estimated at $ 600 million.”

Montreal’s upcoming light rail network (REM) will include 67 km of tracks that will link Montreal, the south shore, the West Island and the north shore and provide a direct link from the airport to the city’s downtown core.

That the airport be connected to the network is viewed as critical component of the project.

“As we all know, most airports, if not all the major airports in Canada, have a direct link to the downtown area,” said Jospeh Huza, president of the West Island of Montreal Chamber of Commerce.

“I think it’s vital…the West Island business community and the community itself will depend highly on a competitive airport.”

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

Airport REM link crucial to local economy, says chamber of commerce

From Montreal Gazette – link to source story

The airport REM station was to be funded privately by Aéroports de Montréal, but the ADM has seen its revenues decline by $600 million during the pandemic.

John Meagher  •  Montreal Gazette  •  Nov 25, 2020

The ADM is seeking a government loan to finance the construction of a REM station at the airport in Dorval.

The head of the West Island of Montreal Chamber of Commerce says it is critical for the local economy for an REM station to be built at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport in Dorval.

“It is crucial,” said Joseph Huza, president of WIMCC. “The airport is the biggest employer in the West Island, with 50,000 direct employees. You can imagine how many more there are (indirectly).

“They generate $6 billion in revenues a year. That is huge. They are their own city,” he added. “And the REM will just make it that much more important, not to mention the separate issue of drilling on to the VIA Rail station so they have access to even more traffic.”

However, Huza expressed his concern for the future of the airport REM project after the Quebec government suddenly announced last week it would not contribute financially to its construction.

MONTREAL, QUE.: OCTOBER 31, 2014 --  Quebec Finance Minister Carlos Leitao left, speaks with West Island Chamber of Commerce president Jean-René Paquette centre, and Executive Director Joseph Huza right, before addressing the chamber at the Montreal Airport Marriott  Friday, October 31, 2014. (Peter McCabe / MONTREAL GAZETTE)
West Island Chamber of Commerce’s Joseph Huza says financing for a REM station at the airport is a major concern. PHOTO BY PETER MCCABE /The Gazette

Premier François Legault said last week it was not the provincial government’s responsibility to pay for the station. He said it should be funded by the ADM or the federal government.

“I’m hoping cooler heads prevail,” said Huza, who added it would be a huge mistake to forego an airport station, especially with the REM light-rail network already under construction.

The airport REM station was supposed to be funded privately by the Aéroports de Montréal, but the ADM has seen its revenues decline by a whopping $600 million this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The pandemic, the slowdown in airport activities to a standstill and the lack of targeted aid for the airline industry, one of the most affected by the crisis, have had devastating effects on ADM’s financial situation, which anticipates revenue losses of about $ 600 million for 2020 alone,” said ADM spokesperson Anne-Sophie Hamel.

“If it does not get a loan, ADM does not see how it could finance the construction of the REM station at the airport, without deviating from its primary mission as an airport authority.”

The ADM said negotiations for a loan that would finance the construction of the REM station at YUL Montréal-Trudeau International Airport with repayment conditions “adapted to the current situation” have been underway with both provincial and federal governments since the end of June.

“Throughout the summer, a great deal of information and data, including various financial arrangements, were provided to both Transport Canada teams and those from the Quebec Ministry of the Economy and Innovation,” Hamel said. “More discussions are required on our end with the Quebec government for us to better understand this sudden turnover.”

In September, federal Economic Development Minister Mélanie Joly said she and federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau discussed financing for the airport REM station with ADM president Philippe Rainville. Last month, Rainville said a solution might be announced by the end of November.

Huza said a train link from downtown Montreal to the airport has been discussed for decades.

“The ADM has always wanted a train link to make them competitive internationally. You go around the world and most international airports have a link to the downtown core. That, in itself, is very important.”

He said the federal government may have to step up to keep the project on track.

“I would think at the end of the day, if Quebec really says ‘we’re not doing this’, even with the tunnel (boring machine) advancing and all that, you’ve got to figure the feds are going to have to try and work out something to help the airport out.

“And you’ve got to figure something will be worked out because it’s in the plans of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec. The link to the airport is pretty much a done deal, and now they have to come up with the money for it.”

Huza joked that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may want to salvage a key project at an airport named after his father. “But he may also decide to go the other way,” he said.

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.