Booking or changing a flight? Here are the rules for major Canadian airlines

News from Global News – link to story and video

YERICA ALINI GLOBAL NEWS | May 27, 2020

 WATCH: Air Canada has changed its policy for customers who lost their flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but anyone hoping for a cash refund will be disappointed.

The federal government’s advisory against all non-essential international travel remains in effect. Many other countries, even those where COVID-19 case counts have been steadily declining for weeks, also have strict travel restrictions in place.

But you wouldn’t know that by looking at airline websites.

As the industry struggles with an unprecedented collapse in air travel and tourism, airlines are touting “flexible” booking policies as a way to woo back customers.Watch: Frustration mounts over lack of refunds for flights cancelled 

If you’re contemplating rebooking an existing flight that was cancelled amid the pandemic or making a new reservation for a future date, here’s what some of the major Canadian airlines are offering:

Air Canada

After facing public criticism for offering a 24-month travel credit rather than refunds for cancelled flights, Canada’s flagship carrier recently introduced expanded booking options. Through June 30, passengers can make a one-time change with no fee to all new or existing bookings for original travel dates between March 1, 2020, and June 30, 2021. As of June 15, those who booked directly with Air Canada will also be able to convert their ticket to a “fully transferrable” travel voucher that has no expiry date or turn it into Aeroplan Miles with 65 per cent bonus miles.

Air Canada says it’s working on ensuring two new options are also available to those who booked through a travel agency, including Expedia.

Customers with refundable tickets can also choose to get their money back. However, if you purchased a non-refundable ticket and decide to cancel your flight, you won’t be eligible for a refund, the website warns.

The changes come as the airline announced it’s still planning to fly to some 100 destinations this summer, including in the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and South America.Watch: Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says government looking at vouchers for airline passengers 

WestJet

WestJet has suspended its international routes through June 25. Like Air Canada, WestJet has been offering travel credit valid for two years for cancelled flights and vacation packages.

For new flight bookings made between March 3 and June 30, you can change or cancel your trip with no fee one time if you act more than 24 hours ahead of departure.

For U.S. flights, if you cancel within 24 hours of making a booking, you get a full refund, according to the company website.

Air Transat

Air Transat flights are temporarily suspended until June 30. The airline says on its website it has been automatically granting travel credit valid for 24 months to customers whose flights were cancelled.

For flights and vacations in southern destinations booked between April 30 and May 31, customers get to reschedule the same trip for any time within a year of the original return date or book a new trip — with different dates, destination and hotel — at no charge up to 24 hours before departure.

Those who just want to cancel get a 12-month travel credit for southern vacation packages and flights in the lowest fare class. For those who bought tickets in other fare classes, the standard cancellation terms apply, according to the airline’s website.

Sunwing

Sunwing has suspended all southbound flights until June 25. Those with flights or vacation packages starting between March 17 and June 25 are eligible for travel credit valid for departures up to June 20, 2022. Notably, the company says its travel credits are non-transferable and non-refundable.

For bookings after June 25 of this year, the company says it will be applying its standard change and cancellation policies.Watch: Coronavirus outbreak: Garneau says airlines facing ‘very tough times’ as customers hope for refunds 

Swoop

WestJet’s ultra-low-cost carrier has suspended all international flights until Aug. 31.

All new bookings made at least seven days ahead of departure will come with the ability to change the date or time of the flight up to 24 hours in advance. If you have an existing booking, you can add the flexible-booking feature to your reservation for travel that is at least seven days out.

Customers get a one-time change per direction.

Flair Airlines

Another no-frills Canadian airline, Flair, also says it has relaxed its booking policies. For those with existing reservations for flights in March, April and May, passengers can choose between a one-time chance to rebook their trip without having to pay a change fee and a travel voucher valid until May 31, 2021. You can only use one voucher per reservation, and it won’t cover costs like baggage, seat selection and other optional fees.

For new bookings made in March, April and May, you get the fee waived on a one-time rebooking for travel until May 31, 2021.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Travel changes and cancellations must be made at least 24 hours in advance of departure.Watch: Airline credits versus full refunds 

Air passenger rights advocate warns against flexible bookings

Flexible bookings, travel credit and vouchers are hardly unique to Canadian airlines. Customers perusing U.S. or other international carriers will be hard-pressed to find any mention of the possibility of refunds, especially for non-refundable flights.

But air passenger rights advocate Gabor Lukacs argues that any alternative to getting your money back comes with considerable financial risk.

For one, consumers should watch out for fare increases. Often, he notes, airlines are merely waiving rebooking fees, with passengers left to cover any cost differential between their original and new bookings out of pocket.

“You will not get a flight to New York City in September for the price you paid in February,” he said via email.

Lukacs takes issue with the practice, noting that current rules under Canada’s Air Passenger Protection Regulations stipulate carriers must rebook passengers at no charge if their flight is cancelled.

Watch: Coronavirus: The future of travel

Another important caveat: most airlines allow only a one-time change to your reservations. (There are exceptions: Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific, for example, is currently allowing unlimited rebookings for some customers within certain dates.)

Also, it’s not clear what happens to travel vouchers if an airline files for insolvency.

“Vouchers holders are unsecured creditors,” Lukacs warns.

Finally, airlines are leaving it up to consumers to figure out whether they can travel. Just because you were able to book a flight to, say, Rome doesn’t mean you’ll be allowed to take the trip.

Traditionally, it’s passengers’ responsibility to make sure they have any permits or visas required to travel to their destination — and travel during COVID-19 is no different, Lukacs notes.

Ultimately, customers should get refunds, he says, adding that even consumers with a non-refundable ticket are entitled to their money back if their flight was cancelled.

European Union and U.S. authorities have said travellers have a right to refunds amid the pandemic. In Germany, the government recently announced a €9-billion (C$13.6-billion) rescue deal for national carrier Lufthansa after the European Commission reasserted in mid-May EU airlines’ obligation to provide refunds to eligible travellers who ask for them.STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Consumer rights advocates say Canadians are also entitled by law to a full refund for flights cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said Ottawa recognizes both “how vulnerable the airline sector is” and that Canadians are concerned about being “out-of-pocket” for airplane tickets they won’t use.

“I think we need to have some very careful discussions with airlines, with the air travel sector and, indeed, with Canadians … to try and figure out a way forward where we can ensure that Canadians are treated fairly and our airline industry remains there for when our economy picks up again,” the prime minister recently said.

“We will work with airlines and with Canadians who are concerned with finding solutions.”

— With files from Global News’ Beatrice Britneff

Canadian airline passengers are entitled to vouchers for cancelled flights from COVID-19 — but what about refunds?

News from Vancouver Sun – link to story

Author of the article: Emily Jackson  •  14 May 2020

Air Canada is offering refunds to customers who bought refundable tickets and offering 24-month vouchers to the rest. COLE BURSTON/BLOOMBERG FILES

As Canada’s largest airlines cut capacity and cancel dozens of routes even as summer travel season approaches, airlines and travellers on both sides of the Atlantic are continuing the debate over whether passengers with travel plans foiled by COVID-19 are entitled to full refunds or vouchers for future travel.

On Wednesday, the European Commission confirmed passengers have the right to full refunds within seven days despite pressure from 16 member states to temporarily relax the regulations to allow for vouchers so cash-strapped airlines don’t collapse.

Instead of amending the rules, the European Commission issued a non-binding suggestion that airlines offer more attractive vouchers, refundable after one year and transferable to another traveller.

The decision outraged European airline associations, who have decried the commission’s decision given airlines have no cash coming in yet and are facing up to €9.2 billion in cash reimbursements through the end of May, according to the International Air Transport Association.

The IATA noted the refund rules were not designed to deal with mass cancellations caused by a global pandemic — and emphasized that Canada allows the voucher approach.

“While passengers have a clear right to reimbursement of their tickets, we believe refundable vouchers, or a delayed reimbursement, represents a fair and reasonable compromise given the unprecedented liquidity situation airlines are currently facing,” Airlines for Europe managing director Thomas Reynaert said in a statement.

A woman walks through a mostly empty Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020.
A woman walks through a mostly empty Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The United States also requires airlines to provide refunds when the carrier cancels or significantly changes a passenger’s flight, but customer complaints about refunds have soared since the pandemic.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Transportation said it received 25,000 complaints in March and April, up from a typical 1,500 complaints per month. The department issued its second enforcement notice on the matter since travel restrictions began, reminding airlines that they may offer vouchers as long as they also give customers the option of a refund.

“The department is asking all airlines to revisit their customer service policies and ensure they are as flexible and considerate as possible to the needs of passengers who face financial hardship during this time,” U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao said in a statement.

The issue is particularly charged in the U.S. given the federal government’s US$50-billion bailout for major airlines.

Meanwhile in Canada, full refunds are but a wish for customers who booked standard tickets since cancelled. Instead, most Canadian airlines are offering 24-month travel vouchers.

Canada’s air passenger protection regulations require airlines to ensure customers can complete their trips when flights are cancelled for reasons outside the airlines’ control, but they do not mandate refunds in such circumstances.

In late April, the Canadian Transportation Agency said the vouchers could be a “reasonable approach in the extraordinary circumstances.”

“Vouchers for future travel can help protect passengers from losing the full value of their flights, and improve the odds that over the longer term, consumer choice and diverse service offerings ­— including from small and medium-sized airlines — will remain in Canada’s air transportation sector,” it stated.

Passengers can file complaints with the CTA if they believe they are entitled to a refund, although the agency has paused all dispute resolution activities until June 30. It did not respond to questions on Wednesday on how many complaints have been filed.

Parked WestJet Boeing 737 aircraft fill an unused runway at the Calgary International airport on Tuesday, May 5, 2020.
Parked WestJet Boeing 737 aircraft fill an unused runway at the Calgary International airport on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. GAIN YOUNG/POSTMEDIA NEWS FILES

The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Air Canada, WestJet, Jazz and Transat, supports the CTA’s guidance that vouchers are acceptable given the financial and operational crisis the pandemic caused.

“The industry is reeling from the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, with over 90 per cent of capacity pulled from the market, billions of dollars worth of aircraft parked, and virtually no revenue coming in,” NACC president Mike McNaney said in an email.

But some passengers hope to band together to get their money back in court. In April, a plaintiff filed a proposed class action lawsuit against Air Canada, WestJet, Transat, Swoop and Sunwing. It argues customers are entitled to refunds under contract law for frustrated contracts. The defendants have yet to file a statement of defence and the action has not yet been certified.

For its part, WestJet, which on Sunday announced it would suspend three dozen routes between June and July, said it “values the feedback we are receiving from our guests and appreciates how difficult this unprecedented situation is for all.”

The airline is monitoring the legal frameworks in every jurisdiction it operates, a spokesperson said in an email, adding it has waived rebooking fees and extended vouchers to 24 months.

Air Canada is offering refunds to customers who bought refundable tickets and offering 24-month vouchers to the rest.

Financial Post

WestJet saves 1,000 pilot jobs through ALPA agreements

From WestJet

CALGARY, April 30, 2020 /CNW/ – Today, WestJet announced it has reached an agreement with the Airline Pilot Association (ALPA), to save more than 1,000 pilot jobs at WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The airline had previously confirmed that 1,700 pilots across WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop had received layoff notifications, effective either May 1 or June 1, 2020. 

“I’m pleased that ALPA and WestJet, through robust negotiations and collaboration have come together to minimize the impact of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic on our pilot groups,” said Jeff Martin, WestJet Executive Vice-President, and Chief Operating Officer. “We thank ALPA for the joint effort in working with us to assist our airline in remaining flexible and competitive. Our pilots will be a critical element of our recovery and retaining these important roles leaves us better positioned to recover strongly and return WestJet to a global airline.” 

Said ALPA MEC Chair, representing WestJet and Swoop, Captain Dave Colquhoun, “The agreement we have reached is due to the dedication of the WestJet executive and the WestJet pilots, in a time where everyone is making sacrifices to protect our airline.  ALPA’s elected leadership appreciates the time and effort that was involved in working together to minimize the impact to our members and we look forward to the time when all of our pilots, and many of the other WestJetters who are casualties of this crisis, are back to work at WestJet.” 

Said ALPA MEC Chair, representing WestJet Encore, Captain Ryan Leier, “On behalf of WestJet Encore pilots, I am pleased we were able to successfully reach an agreement. We recognize that these are uncharted skies as we deal with the effects of COVID-19 and this agreement will help our pilots and the airline get through this together.” 

The agreement allows the WestJet Group of Companies to retain pilots across the three groups, through the amendment of terms to the current agreements.  

WestJet continues to work collaboratively with its employee and labour groups as well as all levels of government to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 crisis to the airline and its employees.  

WestJet is utilizing the Government of Canada’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to assist in navigating this pandemic while work is not available due to the downturn in demand for air travel. Where it is of benefit to the employee, WestJet will use CEWS to keep the inactive employee on the payroll to ensure they remain connected to the company. 

ALPA will communicate specific details to WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop Pilots and WestJet will not be providing further information. 

Airlines battling virus and consumers

News provided by the Vancouver Sun – link to story and updates

Ian Mulgrew Published 4 April 2020

UNDATED -- Receipts Marc Gage received from Air Canada for his "refund." (HANDOUT) [PNG Merlin Archive]
Receipts that Marc Gage received from from Air Canada for his ‘refund.’ / PNG

Retired CBC News-producer-turned-media-trainer Marc Gage lit up with delight when he heard a class-action lawsuit had been launched against Canadian airlines over their responses to the coronavirus crisis.

“Count me in!,” he exclaimed.

Ian Mulgrew: Airlines battling virus and consumers

Gage was still steaming about Air Canada’s brush-off and churlish cancel-or-modify ticket policy that refunded him barely $40 on a $500 trip called off because of public-health travel restrictions.

“Air Canada’s malevolence in helping Canadians through the latest plague to descend on the planet shows they are phoney hypocrites and they need to be called on it,” he fumed.

Tens-of-thousands of others agree, though for many the targets of their anger are WestJet, Swoop, Air Transat or Sunwing Airlines.

Montreal-based Champlain Lawyers launched the proposed class-action suit against all five major carriers over their responses to the outbreak. The 13-page statement of claim filed in Federal Court in Ottawa says passengers who had flights cancelled due to COVID-19 should be entitled to their money back, as well as damages.

The representative plaintiff named in the suit, Janet Donaldson, is only identified as a B.C. resident whose Vancouver-New York round trip on WestJet in April was cancelled as a result of the federal government’s March 13 blanket advisory against non-essential travel outside of Canada.

Lawyer Sébastien Paquette told reporters she had paid $361.39 on Jan. 14 by credit card for her ticket and, when she couldn’t get a refund, she was disappointed.

“This is a consumer-protection class action seeking to enforce each passenger’s rights to a refund for monies paid for their air tickets when they are not able to travel for reasons outside of the control of the passengers,” the claim states.

“Each of the defendants are experienced commercial airlines that have, or ought to have, proper contingency or financial planning to account for situations like COVID-19. In the alternative, each of the defendants ought to have acquired proper business interruption insurance policies to limit their exposure to situations like COVID-19.”

UNDATED -- Receipts Marc Gage received from Air Canada for his
Receipt Marc Gage received from Air Canada for his ‘refund.’ /PNG

The claim names Swoop, WestJet, Air Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing, and says Donaldson wants the case heard in Vancouver.

The Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA) initially said the airlines didn’t have to give refunds if a cancellation was outside its control. But the advocacy group Air Passenger Rights complained, saying it was creating “the false impression of a legally binding determination by the CTA” that misleads consumers about their rights.

The CTA emphasized on its site that the Air Passenger Protection Regulations remained in force and unchanged.

“The CTA recognizes that this is a very challenging time for both airlines and air passengers,” said Scott Streiner, its chairman and CEO. “We’ll continue to monitor the situation closely.”

To participate in the class-action, a passenger must have purchased a ticket before March 11 for a flight to be taken after March 13.

Other litigation is expected to be filed against the airlines, who are struggling to survive the crisis by laying off workers and adopting austerity measures.

Many would-be travellers across Canada have been denied refunds as flight cancellations mount because of travel restrictions and other constraints caused by the novel coronavirus.

Those without travel insurance were generally offered a travel credit, good for 24 months, and many are angry the airlines are keeping their money.

Gage and his wife planned a trip to Yukon leaving in late May but the virus squelched that plan. They called the hotels and B&Bs — nothing but understanding.

“We got our money back without any muss or fuss,” Gage said.

UNDATED -- Receipts Marc Gage received from Air Canada for his
Receipt Marc Gage received from Air Canada for his ‘refund.’ /PNG

He felt confident he’d get the same treatment from Air Canada — it ballyhooed its intention to treat customers fairly.

“We originally paid $555.98 for both of us, a great deal,” Gage explained. “I called to cancel but was told because I had booked economy class they would charge me $512.42 in refund charges leaving me with $42!”

He asked the airline clerk on the phone if that was a joke.

“She told me, ‘I am only repeating what the policy is Mr. Gage. I agree with you entirely but there is nothing I can do to help you.’

“Totally understandable,” Gage added. “She is just paid help, answering the phone.”

In an email, Air Canada media relations said the details of the policy are posted on the company’s website. It was offering passengers credit good for future travel, valid for 24 months from the date their flight was cancelled.

But if a customer was changing an existing booking (as opposed to buying a new ticket), then the situation was different, the media email noted. It said the company was waiving some of the fees normally charged on lower-priced tickets for such changes. But …

“In those cases, customers could incur extra charges because we are still applying our normal fare rules,” Air Canada said. “We recommend customers who have concerns to write our customer relations department and ask for a review.”

Gage laughed.

“Talk about taking advantage and ripping off people in a time of crisis. I’m sure there are thousands like me,” he said.

The class-action hasn’t been certified and none of the claims have been proven in court.

Swoop People Update

From Swoop website

CALGARY, AB – March 24, 2019

The impact of the global COVID-19 outbreak is having a significant impact on the aviation business, including Swoop.

Since the beginning of this crisis, Swoop has made substantial changes to our operations, including suspending our transborder and international flights to reviewing our internal and capital costs to letting go contract staff.

Unfortunately, we now must make even more difficult decisions.

While a significant number of Swoopsters elected voluntary options (46%) such as reduced hours, early out and leave of absences, we had 269 employees impacted through voluntary and involuntary means.

We thank our passionate and dedicated workforce that has been steadfast in helping the airline grow over the past two years and then help us weather an event of this magnitude. And while the crisis continues, Swoop will fly a domestic network, ensuring Canadians have access to critical travel during uncertain times. While there may be select network adjustments over the coming weeks, we will operate as long as the provincial borders and airspace remain open.

Our top priority remains the safety of our travellers, our crew and our aircraft.

We are unwavering in our commitment to being Canada’s ultra-low-cost carrier of choice. In our two years of operating, we have seen what choice and affordability has done to the nation’s skies. While the next few weeks and months will undoubtedly test our airline, we are resilient. We will continue to connect Canadians through the joy of travel.

Coronavirus: Air Canada suspends 2 routes at YLW because of COVID-19 pandemic

News provided by Global News – Link to full story and updates

BY DOYLE POTENTEAU GLOBAL NEWS Posted March 19, 2020

Kelowna International Airport says travelers should check online to see if their flight schedules have been changed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
 Kelowna International Airport says travelers should check online to see if their flight schedules have been changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Global News

Two flights at Kelowna International Airport have been suspended because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

This week, Air Canada announced that the Kelowna to Edmonton flight and the Kelowna to Toronto flight will undergo temporary suspensions, both from March 23 to April 30.

The suspensions were just two of many announced by Air Canada.

In a press release, Kelowna International Airport (YLW) said other routes are operating, but that they may be on a reduced schedule.

YLW also said WestJet announced the suspension of all commercial, international and transborder operations for a 30-day period, starting Sunday, March 22.

“The safety of airport employees, passengers and our greater community is our top priority,” airport director Sam Samaddar, adding YLW is committed to keeping the public informed about the constantly changing landscape caused by COVID-19.

YLW said Swoop’s service to Las Vegas will be suspended as of Monday, March 23, and that Sunwing Vacations has already suspended all southbound flight (March 17 to April 9).

The federal government has issued a travel advisory, asking Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside of the country until further notice.

The government also said listed recommendations for travellers. Those recommendations can be found here.

At YLW, the airport said temporary changes have been made and will stay in effect until further notice.

The changes include:

  • Most dining services featuring take-out service only.
  • The drop-off valet service will not be available.
  • The airport ambassador program has been suspended.
  • The family adventure zone has been temporarily closed.
  • Increased sanitization of high-touch points.
  • More hand sanitizer stations throughout the terminal.
  • Implemented social distancing measures.

“While the situation with COVID-19 is in flux, our commitment to safety and the well-being of everyone at YLW has not changed,” said Samaddar.

“We remain committed to ensuring a safe environment for everyone who comes into the airport.”

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

Swoop Suspends All International Flights, Commits to Bringing Home 2,349 Canadian Travellers

Provided by Swoop/CNW

CALGARY, March 19, 2020 /CNW/ – Swoop is altering its international operations to help with the global efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. At the end of the operating day on Sunday, March 22, Swoop is suspending all international and transborder flights and will begin its efforts to bring home the 2,349 Swoop travellers who are currently outside of Canada. This suspension will be in place until May 31, 2020.

“These are extraordinary times, and we want to be sure our Swoop travellers are safe at home in Canada,” says Bert van der Stege, Head of Commercial, Swoop. “Our priority is to bring Canadian travellers home, ensuring the safety of our travellers, crew and aircraft. We have put these suspensions and subsequent repatriation efforts in place to continue to deliver on that.”

On Monday, March 23, extra flights will begin operating for those Canadians abroad. There will be a total of 15 flights operating over three days to repatriate 2,349 Swoop travellers to Canada.

Impacted travellers are being contacted via email with more specific information on how to re-book on these repatriation flights, as well as how to cancel any upcoming international travel.  

“As a result of how quickly the COVID-19 outbreak is changing demand for international air travel, we are in constant communication with our travellers through our various channels. We apologize for longer than average response times as we work through these changes,” van der Stege states.

Swoop is committed to helping Canadians get to where they need to be, whether that be coming home to Canada or for travel within the domestic network. The airline prides itself on making all seats available at fair fares to support Canadians through these unsettling times. 

Canada’s airline duopoly leaves low-cost carriers and fliers feeling shut out

News provided the Globe and Mail – link to full story and updates

Christopher Reynolds, Montreal, THE CANADIAN PRESS – March 8, 2020

Flair Airlines CEO Jim Scott pictured at the Edmonton International Airport, in Edmonton Alta, on March 5, 2020.THE CANADIAN PRESS

As a new virus wreaks havoc on the global travel industry, aviation upstarts in Canada have their radar trained on a more entrenched set of challenges.

The airline market remains a duopoly, stifling competition in a vast, sparsely populated country. Start-up cash is hard to come by. Competition watchdogs respond sluggishly. And high fees and incumbent perks at big airports work against new budget carriers.

These are the grievances of scrappy upstarts and would-be players, who say barriers to entry have caused a relative dearth of ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCCs) in Canada, resulting in higher fares.

“There’s this duopoly, and the unwritten rule is that anybody that enters is going to get shut down,” Flair Airlines CEO Jim Scott said.

“Having two major carriers tends to squeeze out anybody at the bottom.”

Flair launched commercial service in 2017, taking off in a domestic market where Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. command more than 80 per cent of traffic.

It isn’t the same in other parts of the world.

South Korea, whose 51 million people live within an area 100 times smaller than Canada, sports six low-cost airlines versus Canada’s three: Flair, Swoop and Sunwing.

Europe has more than 30 low-cost carriers, according to the International Civil Aviation Organization.

“Countries like the U.S., Japan, China have bigger domestic airline markets. Yet most of the other countries in the world are not going to have as big a reliance on air travel internally as a place like Canada,” said Richard Elliott, a competition lawyer.

Meanwhile consolidation continues at home, as shareholders at Transat AT, which owns Air Transat, approved a $720-million acquisition offer from Air Canada in August.

The Competition Bureau and other regulatory authorities are scrutinizing the deal, which would secure for Air Canada about 60 per cent of the Canadian transatlantic market and almost half of the sun destination market.

The country’s competitive landscape makes getting start-up funding all the harder. To obtain an operating licence, aviation newcomers must prove to the Canadian Transportation Agency they can cover start-up costs and three months’ worth of operating capital.

In October, Vancouver-based Canada Jetlines Ltd. announced it was postponing its planned December launch and laying off most employees after failing to secure the required financing and losing investment partners.

The setback came after seven years of fundraising and despite Ottawa lifting the foreign ownership ceiling on Canadian airlines to 49 per cent from 25 per cent in 2018.

Olen Aasen, general counsel for Canada Jetlines, said an abundance of Canadian caution and an unfamiliarity with the ultra-low-cost model has further blocked the financing runway.

The two key investors at Canada Jetlines were European charter airline SmartLynx and InHarv ULCC Growth Fund, a group formed by the investment arms of several South Korean conglomerates.

“It was easier to get their money, going halfway across the world, than it was to extract money from Canadian investors,” Aasen said. “They were shocked that there wasn’t anything like this available in Canada aside from Flair.”

Funding was easier to come by and jet fuel much cheaper a quarter-century ago when WestJet launched as a regional upstart based in Calgary.

“In a lot of cases, the credit card companies would actually pay you in advance to travel, so you could create a bit of a float and generate working capital. They don’t do that any more,” AltaCorp Capital analyst Chris Murray said.

One constant over the past 25 years is the Competition Bureau.

“It’s pretty significant caution on the part of the regulator that makes it more challenging to get these airlines to launch,” Murray said, noting the demise of discount carrier Jetsgo Corp. in 2005, less than three years after it took off.

In 2018, the Competition Bureau launched an ongoing predatory pricing investigation into WestJet and its low-cost subsidiary Swoop, which began flying earlier that year, over allegations the two carriers used anti-competitive practices to crowd out Flair from at least three routes.

More than 16 months on, Canada Jetlines’ banner photo on its home page showcases a skydiver in free fall clutching a sign reading: “Do your job, Competition Bureau.” An accompanying video features CEO Javier Suarez plummeting through the air as adrenalin junkies brandish posters proclaiming, “Canada needs more airlines” and “End sky-high airfares.”

The Competition Bureau declined to forecast an end date to the probe into WestJet and Swoop, “although the bureau endeavours to complete its investigations as expeditiously as possible.”

“We take all allegations of anti-competitive conduct seriously and we must conduct a thorough and complete examination of the facts of a case before deciding whether to challenge any alleged conduct,” spokesman Jayme Albert said in an e-mail.

Airport costs and incumbency policies are another issue.

“We’re one of the highest-cost aviation jurisdictions, in terms of the airport fees and other levies, and that also makes it a challenge in terms of keeping your cost line down,” said Robert Kokonis, president of Toronto-based consulting firm AirTrav Inc.

A relative lack of convenient secondary airports, like those in Hamilton, Ont., and Abbotsford, B.C., can force smaller airlines to bid for higher-cost slots at Pearson and Trudeau airports in Toronto and Montreal.

Pearson stands out from most other global hubs in that it has no independent slot co-ordinator to juggle airlines’ competing flight schedules, which could expose the airport authority to favouritism or inefficient placements, said David Huttner, a commercial aviation expert who has worked with Flair.

in the meantime, outside problems continue to throw a wrench in the turbine.

Aside from cancelled flights and quarantines prompted by the novel coronavirus outbreak, the year-long grounding of the Boeing 737 Max jet has triggered hundreds of thousands of cancelled flights across the globe and created pressure on all after-market aircraft availability, said Dean McKenzie, a spokesman for charter airline Enerjet.

The prospective newcomer hopes to graduate from a charter airline to an ultra-low-cost carrier this year, having secured funding from private equity firms including Phoenix-based Indigo Partners and Toronto-based Torquest Partners.

Meanwhile, structural issues persist despite the higher foreign ownership cap, said Huttner.

“The question is, should we foster an environment that allows new entrant carriers to thrive if they can make a go of it against incumbents with deep pockets?”

Spring ahead and Swoop forward with the BOGO Base Fare sale

Provided by Swoop/CNW

CALGARY, March 6, 2020 /CNW/ – As clocks spring forward this weekend, Swoop is calling on Canadians to shrug off the winter blues with its BOGO Base Fare sale. Starting today and running until Mon. March 9, all Swoop flights will be eligible for a buy one, get one discount to base fares.

“This is the time of year that Canadians are looking for a break from winter,” says Bert van der Stege, Head of Commercial, Swoop. “With spring just around the corner, we want to make it easy for everyone to get away and take that trip, visit that family and get out and explore.”

All Swoop flights are eligible for the BOGO Base Fare sale with the discount applied to the base fare. Taxes, fees and surcharges are extra but with deals this low there is no excuse on why a vacation can’t be on the horizon. The BOGO Base Fare sale is for travel between March 7, 2020 and May 7, 2020. Utilize the promo code BOGOBASE to unlock the savings.

Since launching in 2018, Swoop has been a force within the Canadian airline industry, encouraging more Canadians to travel with its ultra-low fares. In early 2020, Swoop welcomed its two millionth traveller and announced new routes to the U.S. and Eastern Canada, continuing to demonstrate how affordable and accessible air travel can be when you unbundle, paying only for what you need and nothing you don’t.

The BOGO sale runs from March 6 – 9, 2020 for travel between March 7, 2020 and May 7, 2020. Bookings must be made in pairs of two for the discount to be applied. For more information and to book flights, visit FlySwoop.com

Swoop Paints the Skies Pink in Celebration of Pink Shirt Day

Provided by Swoop/CNW

The ultra-low-cost carrier encourages Canadians to#LiftEachOtherUp

CALGARY, Feb. 26, 2020 /CNW/ – Today on Pink Shirt Day, Swoop is calling on Canadians to #LiftEachOtherUp through an exciting social media campaign in support of anti-bullying initiatives. Canada’s ultra-low fare airline is partnering with CKNW Kids’ Fund’s Pink Shirt Day and donating $20,000 to programs supporting children’s healthy self-esteem across Canada.

#LiftEachOtherUp (CNW Group/Swoop)
#LiftEachOtherUp (CNW Group/Swoop)

“We are thrilled to be the official social media sponsor of Pink Shirt Day, helping to create positive spaces where people can say ‘no’ to bullying behaviour and say ‘yes’ to encouraging and supporting each other,” says Steven Greenway, President, Swoop. “Pink Shirt Day is a powerful day to highlight the importance of compassion and how kind words and small actions can have meaningful impacts in our communities.”

Today, on Pink Shirt Day, social media posts across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be posted by FlySwoop and Pink Shirt Day that will encourage viewers to like, comment, share and retweet. For every cumulative engagement on the posts, Swoop will donate $1 to anti-bullying initiatives, up to $20,000. Canadians are asked to share these posts using the #LiftEachOtherUp hashtag.

“Since 2008, Pink Shirt Day has raised more than $2.3 million to support youth anti-bullying programs throughout Western Canada, sending a strong message that we care,” says Sara Dubois-Phillips, Executive Director of the CKNW Kids’ Fund. “Often, this one day can start conversations and raise awareness which can be a big step towards healing and helping. We are excited for Swoop to be joining us, demonstrating the power of positive and encouraging behavior.”

Pink Shirt Day has grown from a small group of Canadians to an internationally recognized movement, seeing global partners come together, wearing pink to affirm that we, as a society, will not tolerate bullying anywhere. Canadians are encouraged to join Swoop in practicing kindness and wearing pink to symbolize that bullying doesn’t belong in our communities. 

Today, all Swoop employees will wear custom pink shirts to go along with their already pink wardrobes to show their support for this initiative. Also participating in Pink Shirt Day are Swoop’s airport partners at the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport, St.  John’s International Airport, Charlottetown Airport, London International Airport, John C.  Munro Hamilton International Airport and Abbotsford International Airport.

For more information about Pink Shirt Day, visit: https://www.pinkshirtday.ca/.