Air Canada, WestJet, Transat, Sunwing and more: The latest updates amid the coronavirus pandemic

From TravelWeek – link to source story

12 January 2021 Update | Posted by Travelweek Group

TORONTO — Canada’s airlines took swift action amid border closures and travel restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s the latest from Canada’s airlines. This list is updated as we receive new information from each company. The latest information can always be found at the company’s website.

LATEST UPDATE: Jan.12 – Porter Airlines; Dec. 17 – WestJet; Dec. 14 – Sunwing; Dec. 3 – Air Canada


AIR CANADA

UPDATED DEC. 3: Air Canada says Aeroplan Members making an eligible new booking with Air Canada originating in Canada will receive complimentary Manulife COVID-19 Emergency Medical and Quarantine Insurance. The shift to offer the free coverage to only Aeroplan members took effect Dec. 1, for bookings made Dec. 1, 2020 to Jan. 31, 2020. Air Canada’s Aeroplan program is free to join.


FLAIR AIRLINES

UPDATED JUNE 4: Flair Airlines has announced that it will resume service to Kelowna and Winnipeg while delaying the launch of other destinations as part of its new summer schedule. Its current route schedule will be expanded to include both Kelowna and Winnipeg in addition to Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. However, as a result of ongoing travel restrictions, Flair will also be delaying the launch of service into Ottawa and Atlantic Canada. Full refunds are being offered to passengers booked on cancelled flights to the affected destinations: Ottawa, Halifax, Saint John, N.B., and Charlottetown. Impacted guests will be contacted through email with instructions on how to receive their refunds. The airline’s latest change policies are at https://flyflair.com/travel-info/customer-service/covid-19-updates.


PORTER AIRLINES

UPDATED JAN. 12: Porter Airlines has pushed back its planned restart date to March 29. The airline previously suspended operations until Feb. 11 but according to president and CEO Michael Deluce, more time is needed as COVID-19 vaccine rollouts continue across Canada. More details are here.


SUNWING

UPDATED DEC. 14: Sunwing has restarted its winter sun program with current gateways Toronto and Montreal, and destinations Cancun, Jamaica and Punta Cana. Sunwing is also adding sun flights out of Western Canada.  Flights will depart from Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton to Cancun on Saturdays starting Jan. 9, 2021, with additional flight service from Edmonton to Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan on  Saturdays starting Dec. 26, 2020.

Sunwing has also resumed flights to Cuba, onboard Sunwing Airlines, with weekly flights departing from Toronto and Montreal to Varadero.

Sunwing’s flexible booking options include the option to change or cancel travel plans anytime with ease, monthly payment options and complimentary Price Drop Cash Back of up to $800 per couple. Plus, select packages booked during the sale for departures between now and Dec. 31, 2021 include COVID-19 coverage at no additional cost.

Sunwing customers with departure dates for flights or vacation packages between March 17 and August 31 are eligible to receive a future travel credit in the value of the original amount paid. No action needed. The credit can be redeemed against future travel to anywhere Sunwing Airlines operates, depending on original departure date. Original departure dates between March 17 and May 31, 2020 are redeemable up to June 20, 2022. Original departure dates June 1 – August 31 2020, are redeemable up to August 31, 2022.

For the most up to date information see https://www.sunwing.ca/en/promotion/packages/travel-advisory/.


SWOOP

UPDATED NOV. 16: Swoop is now offering ‘Trustred Travel Getaways’, a limited offering of vacation packages to Montego Bay with departures from Toronto starting Dec. 19. Swoop’s packages are in partnership with IHG Hotels & Resorts, with accommodation at the Holiday Inn Resort Montego Bay All-Inclusive. Free access to mandatory pre-travel COVID-19 testing will ensure that all passengers onboard a departing Trusted Travel Getaway flight have proof of a negative COVID-19 test. Flights will operate from Toronto to Montego Bay on Dec. 19, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. Packages include and Swoop’s free TuGo Travel Insurance COVID-19 coverage.


TRANSAT

UPDATED SEPT. 28: Transat passengers can now benefit from a COVID-19 Emergency Medical Certificate of Insurance. The insurance plan, offered through Manulife, is designed to cover emergency medical and quarantine expenses at destination, in addition to providing assistance if COVID-19 is contracted during the trip. Passengers who book a roundtrip flight from Canada to an international Air Transat destination or a Transat package to Mexico, Central or South America, or the Caribbean, from Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, 2020, for stays of up to 21 days, for departures between Oct. 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, will be covered by the new insurance at no extra cost.

Transat’s 2020-2021 winter program features flights to dozens of destinations as well as packages to hundreds of hotels in the South and Europe. Earlier Transat announced that it had suspended all flights from Western Canada to south and USA destinations for winter 2020-2021. Transat announced on July 22 that its FTCs are now fully transferable, with no expiry date. As before, any residual credit will remain on file. The new policy applies to flights, packages and guided tours. However, it excludes credits received for cruises that are subject to their own cruise lines’ conditions. More information for Transat can be found  at https://www.airtransat.com/en-CA/book/resumption-of-our-operations#%2Fresults.


WESTJET

UPDATED DEC. 17: WestJet has updated its January 2021 schedule, with flights to 57 destinations in the Caribbean, Europe, Central America, Canada and the United States, including Hawaii. In addition to flights to Liberia in Costa Rica, and Ixtapa/Ziuantanejo in Mexico, both from Calgary, January’s schedule also features the resumption of service between Kona, Hawaii and Vancouver as well as Aruba-Toronto. Dreamliner service between Calgary and Cancun kicks off on Jan. 8, 2021 while service to Puerto Vallarta will start Jan. 23.

Through TuGo, any WestJet air-only reservation including WestJet Vacations bookings for travel to and from Mexico, the Caribbean,  the U.S., Europe (including the U.K.) and inbound to Canada will provide eligible passengers no-charge COVID-19 travel insurance.

On Oct. 21 WestJet announced it will voluntarily provide refunds to original form of payment for guests with flights cancelled by WestJet and Swoop, from any time period, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. More information can be found here.

Earlier WestJet announced it was offering refunds for select flights that include a U.S. or UK destination. The refunds apply to U.S. and UK flights March 1 – June 30. On Sept. 15 it added Europe to its refund-eligible list, for flights to or from Europe and scheduled to depart between March 1 and Oct. 31.

Effective Nov. 2 all WestJet flights to and from Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City will be suspended indefinitely. Service to and from Halifax and St. John’s will see cuts. All told the move will impact more than 100 flights per week, or almost 80% of seat capacity from the Atlantic region. WestJet says a return to service date is unknown at this time. Passengers impacted by the suspension of operations will be contacted directly regarding their options for travel to and from the region.

Porter Airlines updates tentative restart of flights to March 29

TORONTO, Jan. 11, 2021 /CNW/ – Porter Airlines is establishing March 29 as a revised tentative date for restarting flights based on the continuing surge in COVID-19 cases and corresponding public health measures.

“With the introduction of vaccines, we are more optimistic about determining a date in the near-term to reintroduce flights than at any point since the pandemic began,” said Michael Deluce, president and CEO of Porter Airlines. “More time is needed to assess the vaccine’s influence on current travel restrictions and when it is appropriate to begin operations again. We expect to establish a timeline for this to happen in the first part of 2021.”

A further update will be provided this winter based on the status of the pandemic and the evolution of government measures that may promote greater freedom to travel.

Porter temporarily suspended operations on March 21, 2020, due to COVID-19.

How the COVID-19 pandemic is reshaping the airline business

From The Globe and Mail – link to source story

Eric Atkins Transportation Reporter | January 3, 2021

An Air Canada Boeing 737-8 Max airplane at Vancouver’s international airport in Richmond, B.C., on Feb. 5, 2019. Ben Nelms/Reuters

COVID-19 vaccines and tests offer hope the airline industry will see customers return in 2021, but it will be several years before the industry can shake off the devastation caused by the pandemic.

The world’s airlines have grounded 30 per cent of their fleets, laid off thousands of employees and amassed billions of dollars in debt to survive the downturn. A resurgent pandemic, new and varied border closings, consumer gloom and a poor economy all threaten to prolong the misery for airlines, which will not break even until late 2021, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Afull recovery to 2019 passenger levels will not happen until perhaps 2024, IATA says, although estimates vary. That’s because the usual measures airlines use to predict demand for seats and flights – the economy, past sales, per-seat profits and more – have been replaced.

Seat sales are now dictated by consumers’ fear of becoming sick or stranded, and by government travel restrictions, which can change daily.

This means airlines have to change the way they plan their schedules, and be set to make last-minute cancellations or additions to meet demand. Amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, travellers are less likely to book long term, and will make their travel plans based on the immediate state of the pandemic and public-health rules.

“The way that airlines have forecast demand in the past is out of the window, that’s absolutely changed,” said Jeremy Bowen, chief executiveof Cirium, an aviation consultancy.

Chartss – link to source story

Now, airlines will schedule flights six to eight weeks in advance, instead of six months or a year ahead, in order to be able to quickly add or remove flightsbased on seat sales, Mr. Bowen said.

About 40 per cent of airline bookings in the Northern Hemisphere in August and September were made just three days before the flight, Mr. Bowen said. “As an airline, it’s virtually impossible to know whether to cancel that flight and consolidate it with another one, or hold your nerve and hope that it is going to book and you can fly profitably in three days. So the ways of forecasting demand are changing and will continue to change over the next two to three years.”

The data airlines use to predict demand will change, as well. Social media chatter about destinations, and data from Google searches for resorts, seat prices and travel websites will rise in importance. “Those things didn’t used to be primary sources. They now are because there’s nothing else to go on,” Mr. Bowen said.

Narrow-body, single-aisle aircraft will dominate the fleets of most airlines, replacing the fuel-guzzling wide-body planes, analysts say.

The Airbus and Boeing 737 Max planes – loved for their long range and fuel efficiency – will serve on medium-length and even long-haul flights as airlines rid their fleets of older Boeing 747s and 767s, which are larger and less fuel efficient.

About 30 per cent of the world’s fleet is in storage, and the planes still flying are carrying fewer passengers and flying less often, Cirium says.

As of Dec. 17, Air Canada had 36 planes parked in Arizona and 11 in Kansas City, where warm weather makes storage and maintenance easier. Air Transat had six planes parked in Brazil, while WestJet had six in Arizona. Porter Airlines has 27 planes parked at Toronto’s Billy Bishop airport and one in Thunder Bay.

In total, Canada’s four biggest airlines had 180 of their 345 planes in storage. Air Canada has said it will retire 79 of its aircraft, while its rivals are expected to shed several as well.

About 600 to 700 planes around the world are inactive, many waiting to be cut up for parts or scrap metal, said Richard Brown, managing director at U.K.-based aviation consultancy Naveo Ltd. Other aircraft will be returned to service as needed.

“The airlines are playing a wait and see game at the moment,” Mr. Brown said. “And the big challenge for the airlines is rightsizing their fleet for the demand that will come back.”

Air Transat has been retiring its wide-body Airbus planes, the A310 and A330, and its older Boeing 737s, as it takes delivery of Airbus A321 Neos, a narrow-body model that can cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Air Canada, which is retiring the Boeing 767, Airbus A319 and Embraer 190, is expected to reintroduce its 24 737 Max planes when safety changes that were made after two other airlines suffered fatal 737 Max crashes are approved by Ottawa. Air Canada will also take control of Air Transat’s updated fleet if regulators approve its takeover.

As passengers pushed for refunds, Air Canada got more than $400 million from wage subsidy

From CBC News – link to source story and VIDEO

Airline received most aid among publicly traded companies that have disclosed finances to date

Ashley Burke, Madeline McNair · CBC News · Posted: Dec 06, 2020

Air Canada tapped into hundreds of millions of dollars in government support to pay its employees a percentage of their wages during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

This story is part of The Big Spend, a CBC News investigation examining the unprecedented $240 billion the federal government handed out during the first eight months of the pandemic.

Air Canada has received the largest amount of government pandemic aid of all publicly traded companies in Canada that have disclosed their finances to shareholders to date, a CBC News investigation has found.

The country’s largest airline reported that it collected $492 million in public funds through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to pay its employees over a period ending Sept. 30, according to Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) and TSX Venture Exchanges filings.

According to CBC’s findings from information posted to date, that’s roughly four times more than the second-highest sum paid to a publicly traded company through the wage subsidy, which went to Imperial Oil. The Calgary-based energy giant disclosed it received $120 million from CEWS. Linamar, a large automobile parts manufacturer, and Air Transat also received more than $100 million each to help cover salaries.

Air Canada said that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it employed about 40,000 people — making it one of the “larger private sector employers in Canada” in an industry hit “disproportionately hard” by the pandemic.

“Put simply, we are by far the biggest company in perhaps the worst industry,” Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick wrote in a statement issued to CBC News. 

Despite Air Canada receiving hundreds of millions of dollars to pay its workers, the air carrier is in the midst of private negotiations with the federal government on a possible industry-specific support package. Some experts argue the carrier is using travellers’ demands for refunds for cancelled flights as leverage to pressure the government during the negotiations.

John Gradek, a former Air Canada executive and lecturer at McGill University’s global aviation leadership program, claims the airline industry is “bullying” the government into bailing out the sector, arguing that other countries have already done so. He said Air Canada is playing a “shell game” of its own.

“I think it’s a little bit of gamesmanship that’s being played by Air Canada,” Gradek said. “They’re insisting that those refunds will only be processed if the Canadian government, through the Canadian taxpayer, is providing the funds for those refunds. Not a good thing.”

WATCH | John Gradek on Air Canada pandemic aid and fare refunds:

‘The Canadian aviation industry is really bullying the government,’ said former Air Canada executive.
John Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University, says the airline industry is arguing it’s time for the government to bail out struggling airlines since other countries have done so

400 private companies reviewed by CBC

CBC News analyzed data from more than 2,000 publicly traded companies listed on the TSX and TSX venture exchanges and identified 400 businesses that have already filed public disclosures indicating they received taxpayer support.

While the figures reviewed by CBC News indicate Air Canada has received the most taxpayer-funded pandemic support of any company to date, there could still be other companies that have received more and have not yet publicly disclosed the sums.

WestJet, Sunwing, Porter Airlines and Flair Airlines all received the wage subsidy to help cover their payrolls; none of them trade on the TSX and none of them have disclosed to CBC News the amount of money they received. Chorus Aviation, which owns regional airlines Jazz and Voyageur, received almost $97 million through the wage subsidy, according to TSX filings. 

In total, the federal government spent $1.4 billion helping Canadian airlines pay up to 75 per cent of employee wages during the pandemic, according to the federal government’s fall economic update, released last week.

‘The biggest company in perhaps the worst industry’

No one from Air Canada would sit for an interview with CBC News. In a media statement, the airline said it received a substantial amount for the wage subsidy because it employs so many people, and “as much as 95 per cent of our revenue disappearing virtually overnight, which is why the government is now looking at specific sectoral support for our industry, just as governments around the world have already done for their airlines.”

“Given this, it is only to be expected that we are a relatively large user of CEWS — our next biggest domestic competitor was less than one-third our size in terms of employees at the outset of COVID,” Fitzpatrick said.

As the pandemic crushes airline industry revenue, passengers — many of them struggling financially — have been angrily demanding that the federal government force airlines to refund them for cancelled flights.

More than 100,000 Canadians have joined petitions calling for government action on refunds, and several class-action lawsuits have been filed against airlines.

Air Canada holding $2.3B in revenue from ticket sales

Air Canada’s president and CEO, Calin Rovinescu, told Bloomberg News earlier this month that despite the financial hit, his airline has already paid back $1.2 billion in refundable airfares. 

Rovinescu told Bloomberg on Nov. 18 that he has “no quarrel” at all with refunding customers for non-refundable flights, “assuming that the terms of the support package are adequate and the terms are appropriate and reasonable.”

Air Canada has reported that, as of the end of September, it had $2.3 billion in revenue on hand from ticket sales — about 65 per cent of which came from non-refundable fares.

Air Canada president and CEO Calin Rovinescu told Bloomberg earlier this month it had one of the strongest balance sheets in the global airline industry heading into the pandemic. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)

Gradek argues that Air Canada has the money to pay the refunds but is using it as a bargaining chip in bailout negotiations with the federal government.

“Air Canada does have the cash,” he said, pointing to the airline’s $8 billion in unrestricted liquidity as of September. “Air Canada does not need government funding in order for it to process those refunds.”

No more sectoral support without refunds, says Garneau

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said he has made it clear to airlines that they must pay out the refunds before they can get any more government aid.

“We said very clearly no — until they commit in writing to refund passengers, they will not get a cent from the Canadian government,” he said.

When asked by CBC News whether Ottawa would allow airlines to use taxpayer dollars to refund passengers, Garneau said he would not go into details since the negotiations with the airlines are confidential.

But he did suggest that if airlines meet the government’s requirements for financial support and commit in writing to refunding passengers, carriers could qualify for help. The government has imposed conditions on bailing out air carriers that require them to issue refunds, maintain air connections throughout Canada and honour any orders placed with Canadian aerospace companies.

“It takes a while to do that refunding because there are quite a few passengers, but once the refund agreement is signed — a very specific undertaking by both sides — then they’ll be in a position to receive our assistance as they begin the refunding process,” Garneau said.

WATCH | Transport Minister Marc Garneau on sectoral aid for airlines:

‘They will not get a cent’ until airlines commit to customer refunds, says Transport Minister Marc Garneau

Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the government is currently in confidential talks with major airlines about an industry-specific aid package contingent on a number of strict conditions.

‘I’m extremely upset about it’

Air Canada customer Calvin Hill said he feels like a “hostage.” 

He and his wife said they can’t afford rent in Medicine Hat, Alta., because they’re out $4,000 for Air Canada flights they never took. They say they’re sleeping in their daughter’s basement.

“I’m extremely upset about it,” Hill said. “Then to find out that the airlines want to turn around and have us Canadian taxpayers bail them out while they refuse to turn around and refund the monies back to us  — it’s very upsetting.”

Hill, who retired last year, planned to take the trip of a lifetime to Asia with his wife. Then the pandemic hit and the government told all Canadians to come home in March. 

Air Canada wouldn’t allow the couple to board their original flights out of Bangkok to get home due to travel restrictions on one of their layovers, Hill said. As a result, he and his wife had to pay for flights home with another carrier.

Hill claims an Air Canada agent promised to refund their tickets, but he’s still fighting for the money more than eight months later. He said he’s out roughly four months’ rent.

“They’re holding us as people with outstanding vouchers or refunds hostage unless we tell them, ‘Well, you give me a dollar in my left hand and I’ll give you a dollar back in my right hand to pay for it,'” he said. “Which I think is ridiculous.”

Calvin Hill and his wife Janice have been fighting for months for a refund for Air Canada flights they couldn’t board. (Submitted)

Major gap in Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations

Air Canada said it’s offering non-refundable ticket holders travel credits with no expiry date that can be transferred to others or to “convert their booking to Aeroplan points and with an additional 65 per cent bonus.”The airline said this option is in line with direction given by the Canadian Transportation Agency. 

Scott Streiner, chair and CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, testified in front of MPs last week that there is a gap in Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations that no one saw coming. Canadian airlines are not obligated to refund passengers if cancellations are out of a carrier’s control, he said. 

“[The regulations] refund obligation applies exclusively to flight cancellations within airlines controls,” Streiner told the transport committee on Dec 1. “We now know the gap highlighted by the pandemic is significant.”

Streiner said if and when the CTA gets authority to fix that gap, “we’ll fix it.”

In contrast, Air Canada is offering customers who flew out of Europe a refund for non-refundable tickets after “extensive discussions” with European Union members. 

Air Canada in talks with government

Air Canada’s third-quarter results report to investors shows the dramatic impact the pandemic has had on the company. The airline says it saw an 88 per cent drop in passenger traffic due to the pandemic and travel restrictions.

The airline did earn $757 million in the third quarter, but that represented an 86 per cent drop of $4.7 billion from its earnings in the same time period in 2019. 

Bleeding cash, Air Canada took what it called “the painful step” of cutting half of its workforce in June — 20,000 jobs — and indefinitely suspended 30 domestic regional routes. The carrier also retired some planes early and postponed or cancelled the delivery of some new aircraft, according to the company’s financial records.

Wesley Lesosky is the president of the Air Canada component of CUPE, which represents 6,000 laid-off flight attendants. He said Air Canada should have kept those people employed through the wage subsidy program, as other airlines did. 

Lesosky is also the president of the union’s airline division, which represents 15,000 flight attendants at other airlines, including Air Transat, Sunwing and WestJet. 

“If the government’s going to give an employer that amount of assistance, which is quite high, it should have conditions tied to it where the workers are actually protected,” he said.

Air Canada, meanwhile, told CBC News that Canada is “somewhat of an outlier among developed nations in not having a targeted, sectoral support program for the aviation industry.”

The carrier points to the International Air Transport Association’s chief economist, who stated recently that more than $160 billion US in government aid has gone to airlines globally.

The U.S. and some European countries have given billions in financial aid to airlines. In some cases, there were strings attached to that aid, such as governments taking  equity stakes in the airlines and requiring them to issue refunds.

Porter Airlines adjusts planned restart date to Feb. 11

TORONTO, Nov. 9, 2020 /CNW/ – Porter Airlines is updating its planned restart date for flights to Feb. 11, due to increasing COVID-19 cases and ongoing travel restrictions affecting customer demand.

“Deferring service until 2021 is not a decision we anticipated having to make as COVID-19 emerged early this year,” said Michael Deluce, president and CEO of Porter Airlines. “Every delay to restarting flights has the greatest effect on our team members, who are eager to do their part to help serve customers under safe conditions. Unfortunately, the continued and cumulative effects of restrictive travel advisories, border closures and quarantines have suffocated travel demand to the point that a return to sustainable levels of passenger traffic is highly unlikely in 2020.”

Planning a restart after the traditionally slow post-holiday January period, provides a reasonable opportunity to begin flying if conditions improve. This also gives more time for the development of rapid testing solutions as a promising means to lift government-imposed restrictions on travel.

Porter temporarily suspended operations on March 21, due to COVID-19.

Fewer flights could lead to higher airfares and a delayed economic recovery

From Halifax Today – link to story

15 October 2020 | By: Meghan Groff

Premier Stephen McNeil wants to see a national strategy for Canada’s air transportation industry a day ago

032320 - airplane - flight - AdobeStock_162309703(stock photo|)

Fewer WestJet flights will likely lead to more connections, far fewer options and higher airfares, according to an airport spokesperson.

Yesterday, WestJet announced a significant reduction in the number of flights to both Halifax and St. John’s, along with the indefinite suspension of all routes heading to Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney and Charlottetown.

In total, more than 100 flights a week to Atlantic Canada will be eliminated as of Nov. 2.

WestJet will still have 14 weekly flights between Halifax and Toronto, 11 weekly flights between Halifax and St. John’s and 9 weekly flights between Halifax and Calgary.

However, the airline won’t be providing service between Stanfield International and Sydney or Ottawa.

“That’s certainly reducing choice and options that are available to our community members,” said Halifax International Airport Authority spokesperson Tiffany Chase. “We’ve already seen a significant amount of capacity for air travel cut from our airport.”

Chase said it only has around 10 per cent of the passengers it had this time last year.

“It’s taken years for us to build important connections, not only to domestic destinations, but also those in the U.S. and European markets,” she added. “Unfortunately all of that has unraveled in a matter of months.”

“We know it will be very difficult, it could take years to get some of those services back, if ever.”

WestJet’s president and CEO, Ed Sims, said the airline would normally serve over 2 million passengers a month, however since the start of the pandemic, it has only flown 1 million people total.

In a statement posted to YouTube, he said more than 70 per cent of its fleet remains grounded.

On Tuesday, Porter Airlines — which grounded flights back on March 21 — once again pushed back its temporary service suspension to Dec. 15. 

Chase said Halifax’s airport essentially operates on a user-pay system and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to address the revenue gap that has been caused by COVID-19.

Earlier this year, around 25 per cent of airport staff were laid off and only under one-third of businesses that were operating in the facility remain open.

“Many businesses have had to close, have had to lay off employees,” said Chase. 

“A number of the airlines have also announced cuts to jobs, in fact across Canada in the aviation sector, we’re currently looking at about a 50 per cent job loss, and that’s a pretty staggering statistic.”

Atlantic Canadian premiers say urgent action from the federal government is needed to address cuts in air service.

“This is a big blow to the region,” said Nova Scotia’s Premier Stephen McNeil. “We know that Air Canada also made the decision early on to make changes. WestJet is making those changes.

“This in many ways is how we move around this region, and at the same time, it’s how we go out into the world.”

He said a vibrant air service will be vital to our province’s recovery following the pandemic, as it’s essential for export opportunities, business travel and our tourism sector.

“We’ve all lived through those days when for the cost of a flight from Halifax to Sydney, Nova Scotia, we could travel halfway around the world on a cheaper air ticket,” he said at a Wednesday briefing. “We saw changes when we had that competitive environment.”

McNeil wants to see a national strategy for Canada’s air transportation industry.

“This is a national issue and it’s our view that we need to find a solution to this, because otherwise our climb out of the economic impact of COVID will be much greater than other parts of Canada,” our premier said.

“We need this service.”

Porter Airlines extends service restart to Dec. 15

TORONTO, Oct. 13, 2020 /CNW/ – Porter Airlines is extending its temporary service suspension to Dec. 15, based on continuing travel restrictions associated with COVID-19.

“The flare up of COVID-19 cases in certain markets during the last month dampened any expectation of changes to government restrictions that will enable us to begin flying again in November,” said Michael Deluce, president and CEO, Porter Airlines. “The federal government is indicating that they need more confidence about what course the pandemic will take before restrictions are reconsidered. We hope that lifting of travel restrictions will soon be possible given evolving technology, such as rapid testing, and health and safety investments that the travel industry is making.”

Porter is waiving change and cancellation fees on all fares booked through Dec. 15, including Porter Escapes vacation packages.

Porter temporarily suspended operations as of March 21, due to COVID-19.

Advocates say ‘contact airline first’ clause deprives passenger compensation

From BNN Bloomberg – link to story

The Canadian Press | 28 September 2020

An Airbus A320-200 passenger jet, operated by South African Airlines, flies above a construction site during take-off from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.
An Airbus A320-200 passenger jet, operated by South African Airlines, flies above a construction site during take-off from O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg. , Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

MONTREAL — A passenger rights company is calling on the country’s transportation regulator to take a stand against airlines that bar travellers from engaging a third party to seek compensation until their claims have already been rejected.

So called “contact airline first” clauses stipulate that passengers seeking compensation must initially reach out to the airline directly, rather than filing a claim through a law firm, company or advocacy group. Berlin-based AirHelp says the provisions protect carriers’ interests at the expense of their customers, depriving them of key information when they ask to be compensated for delayed flights or damaged luggage.

“‘Contact airline first’ clauses are often used as an opportunity to reject and filter out many valid claims, as the airlines know the majority of passengers will not pursue the matter further,” AirHelp chief legal officer Christian Nielsen said in release.

Up to two-thirds of Canadian claimants give up their claim after an initial rejection by the airline, according to an online YouGov survey last year that included 10,400 participants from nine countries.

A 2019 AirHelp study drawing on hundreds of thousands of the company’s claims also found that airlines wrongfully reject more than 50 per cent of valid claims at first.

Air Canada customer Steve Pereira hopes to force legal clarity on the issue with a case now before the Canadian Transportation Agency, though a backlog of thousands of complaints could delay the outcome.

The regulator upheld Air Canada’s clause in a decision from March 2019, the airline noted.

“It is always our desire to resolve any issues that arise quickly and fairly,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.

“The agency said our approach is a means to minimize delays and offers an efficient way to resolve claims (noting our online process is very easy to use and customer friendly), it protects the interests of passengers, and is in keeping with the intent of other regulations, such as the EU rules.”

AirHelp says the precedent comes into question in the wake of recent case law abroad and a new passenger rights charter in Canada.

“Times have changed,” Nielsen said in a phone interview.

“Over the last two years, that case law has been overturned. So now in Europe it’s illegal,” he said, citing a pair of rulings in German and Austrian courts over the past 12 months.

The federal government rolled out its Air Passenger Protection Regulations last year, which lay out compensation requirements for incidents ranging from tarmac delays to flight bumping.

Airlines filed a court challenge soon after arguing the regulations go too far on mandatory compensation, while consumer advocates say the rules grant carriers too many exemptions.

Air Canada and Porter Airlines Inc., along with 17 other applicants that include the International Air Transport Association — which has some 290 member airlines — state in a court filing from June 2019 that required payments under the air passenger bill of rights violate international standards and should be rendered invalid.

The rules require passengers to be compensated up to $2,400 if they are denied boarding because a flight was overbooked and receive up to $2,100 for lost or damaged luggage. Compensation also includes up to $1,000 for delays or cancelled flights.

Advocates have said the criteria for monetary compensation are tough to meet as passengers have to present evidence that is typically in the hands of an airline.

Air Canada, WestJet, Transat, Sunwing and more: The latest updates amid the coronavirus pandemic

From Travelweek Canada – link to story

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 by Travelweek Group

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

TORONTO — Canada’s airlines have taken swift action amid border closures and travel restrictions in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. In many cases airlines have temporarily suspended operations entirely.

Here’s the latest from Canada’s airlines. Updates will be added as soon as they become available.

LATEST UPDATE: Sept. 18 – Air Canada, Sunwing and WestJet; Sept. 9 – Porter Airlines; Sept. 4 – Swoop; Aug. 26 – Air Canada; Aug. 10 – Sunwing; Aug. 5 – Transat


AIR CANADA

UPDATED SEPT. 18: Air Canada is now flying to a select network of domestic, transborder and international destinations. Air Canada’s complimentary COVID-19 emergency medical and quarantine insurance, underwritten by Manulife, is available to eligible customers booking roundtrip international flights. It applies to new bookings made in Canada from Sept. 17 until Oct. 31, 2020, inclusive, for travel completed by April 12, 2021.

On Aug. 24, Air Canada announced that passengers with new or existing bookings made by Sept. 30, 2020 for original travel March 1, 2020 – Sept. 30, 2021 can make a one-time change without a fee. Passengers who booked directly with Air Canada who need to cancel for any reason can convert their ticket to an Air Canada travel voucher, with no expiry date, or to Aeroplan Miles with 65% bonus miles. Updated network information can be found here


FLAIR AIRLINES

UPDATED JUNE 4: Flair Airlines has announced that it will resume service to Kelowna and Winnipeg while delaying the launch of other destinations as part of its new summer schedule. Its current route schedule will be expanded to include both Kelowna and Winnipeg in addition to Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver. However, as a result of ongoing travel restrictions, Flair will also be delaying the launch of service into Ottawa and Atlantic Canada. Full refunds are being offered to passengers booked on cancelled flights to the affected destinations: Ottawa, Halifax, Saint John, N.B., and Charlottetown. Impacted guests will be contacted through email with instructions on how to receive their refunds. The airline’s latest change policies are at https://flyflair.com/travel-info/customer-service/covid-19-updates.


PORTER AIRLINES

UPDATED SEPT. 9: Porter Airlines has pushed back its restart to Nov. 12. Porter is waiving change and cancellation fees on all fares booked through Nov. 12, including Porter Escapes vacation packages. See https://s3.amazonaws.com/eporter.flyporter.com/Suspension/index.html.


SUNWING

UPDATED SEPT. 18: Sunwing has announced it will be offering a limited schedule in September with service from Toronto to Cancun, Varadero, Cayo Coco, Punta Cana and Montego Bay, as well as from Montreal to Cancun, Punta Cana, Varadero and Cayo Coco. Sunwing has partnered with Manulife to offer the COVID-19 Emergency Medical Certificate of Insurance at no additional cost to customers. It is included in all Sunwing vacation packages (excluding cruises) and air-only bookings with Sunwing Airlines (for a duration of 21 days or less) made between now and Oct. 31, 2020 for departures from Oct. 16, 2020 up to and including May 31, 2021.

Passengers with departures dates for flights or vacation packages March 17 – Aug. 31 are eligible to receive a future travel credit for the value of the original amount paid. Credits can be redeemed against future travel to anywhere Sunwing Airlines operates, depending on the original departure date. For original departure dates between March 17 and May 31, 2020, future travel credits are redeemable up to June 20, 2022. For original departure dates June 1 – Aug. 31, 2020, future travel credits are redeemable up to Aug. 31, 2022. For the most up to date information see https://www.sunwing.ca/en/promotion/packages/travel-advisory/.


SWOOP

UPDATED SEPT. 4: Swoop is set to resume operations from Pearson Airport on Oct. 25, to destinations including Montego Bay, Cancun, Las Vegas, Orlando and Tampa Bay. It will also resume operations at Kelowna International Airport for the winter season, plus flights are available from Edmonton as well.


TRANSAT

UPDATED AUG. 5: Transat has unveiled its 2020-2021 winter program, featuring flights to dozens of destinations as well as packages to hundreds of hotels in the South and Europe. Earlier Transat announced that it had suspended all flights from Western Canada to south and USA destinations for winter 2020-2021. Transat announced on July 22 that its FTCs are now fully transferable, with no expiry date. As before, any residual credit will remain on file. The new policy applies to flights, packages and guided tours. However, it excludes credits received for cruises that are subject to their own cruise lines’ conditions. More information for Transat can be found  at https://www.airtransat.com/en-CA/book/resumption-of-our-operations#%2Fresults.


WESTJET

UPDATED SEPT. 18: Starting Oct. 4 WestJet will operate flights to 48 destinations including 39 in Canada, three in the U.S. and three in Mexico, two in Jamaica and one in the UK.

Through its new partner TuGo, and for reservations made on or after Sept. 18, 2020, any WestJet air-only reservation including WestJet Vacations bookings for travel to and from Mexico, the Caribbean (excluding the U.S.), Europe (including the U.K.) and inbound to Canada will provide eligible passengers no-charge COVID-19 travel insurance.

On June 1 WestJet announced it was offering refunds for select flights that include a U.S. or UK destination. The refunds apply to U.S. and UK flights March 1 – June 30. On Sept. 15 it added Europe to its refund-eligible list, for flights to or from Europe and scheduled to depart between March 1 and Oct. 31.

Porter Airlines updates restart date to November 12

TORONTO, Sept. 8, 2020 /CNW/ – Porter Airlines is updating its return-to-service date to Nov. 12, from the previously-announced target of Oct. 7.

The quarantine period for travellers entering or returning to Canada was recently extended. This, along with the continued closure of the Canada-U.S. border and Atlantic Canada travel bubble, are key factors in the decision to extend the restart date.

“Every one of our markets is affected by the Canadian government’s non-essential travel advisory and border closures,” said Michael Deluce, president and CEO, Porter Airlines. “We understand the impact this has on our passengers and our team members, and continue to make decisions based on how the situation evolves.”

Porter is waiving change and cancellation fees on all fares booked through November 12, including Porter Escapes vacation packages.

Porter temporarily suspended operations as of March 21, due to COVID-19.