Chorus Aviation Announces Significant Measures in Response to COVID-19, including Dividend Suspension and New US$100 Million Credit Facility

Provided by Chorus Aviation Inc/CNW

HALIFAX, April 6, 2020 /CNW/ – Chorus Aviation Inc. (‘Chorus’ or the ‘Company’) provides the following update on the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on its business and its initiatives to preserve liquidity.

The COVID-19 outbreak has led to worldwide economic uncertainty with companies around the globe taking painful steps to manage through this unprecedented, ever changing event. For the aviation industry, it has led to strict travel restrictions and global cancellations impacting all airlines around the world. The International Air Transport Association is currently estimating a US$252 billion year-on-year loss in passenger revenue worldwide. Even if the Company’s business model does not directly expose it to the market risks ordinarily faced by airlines, substantially all its source revenue is derived from airline customers, through its Capacity Purchase Agreement (‘CPA’) with Air Canada and its leasing of aircraft to airline customers globally. The full extent of the duration and therefore impact of this pandemic are unknown.

Joe Randell, President and CEO, stated, “Our industry is facing its worst crisis in history.  The world situation is unstable and there are no signs of a near-term recovery. We entered this predicament from our strongest position ever, and it’s devastating to be sending approximately 3,000 employees home, given the successes we’ve achieved together. Our employees are amongst the most talented in the industry, and I’m deeply troubled by the uncertainty and anxiety this is causing our employees and their families. The rapid and dramatic impact of this pandemic is astounding, and we’re taking all measures to ensure the safety of our employees, mitigate costs, bolster our liquidity and strengthen our relationships with customers. We’re prudently and responsibly managing our financial resources to secure our future and eliminating all discretionary cash outflows thus requiring a suspension of our dividend. These are very difficult decisions, impacting all of our stakeholders, but necessary to ensure we’re ready to emerge from this worldwide crisis as resiliently and quickly as possible.”

Further information regarding the suspension of the Company’s dividend is provided below.

Operations Impact

Chorus is working with its main customer and partner, Air Canada, which has implemented a second quarter network-wide capacity reduction of approximately 85%-90%.  Chorus’ Air Canada Express flying has been reduced by approximately 90% for April and May, resulting in significant temporary employee reductions.  Chorus is reviewing the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program and is awaiting further details to assess any impact to these planned reductions.

With the shutdown of its production line, Bombardier has notified Chorus of a temporary delay in the production of its order of nine Bombardier CRJ900 aircraft that were originally scheduled for delivery in 2020.  As such, Chorus expects a corresponding delay in anticipated leasing revenue under the CPA for these aircraft. No timeline has been provided for the future delivery of the aircraft. The deposits on these aircraft were previously paid, and the Company has a financing commitment for them.

In accordance with the CPA, the fixed fee does not vary with the amount of flying and is fixed based on agreed annual amounts.

As with many leasing companies, Chorus has received requests from substantially all of its Regional Aircraft Leasing segment customers for some form of temporary rent relief.  The period of relief most commonly spans three months, and where monthly rentals are deferred in full or in part, the customer provides a commitment to repay the amounts deferred following the end of the agreed deferral period. While we expect the industry, and especially the regional aviation sector, to recover in time, these deferrals will increase Chorus’ trade receivable balance in the near term. Consistent with market norms, our leases are generally for a fixed term, contain an absolute payment obligation on the part of the lessee, and cannot be terminated early for convenience. Chorus also had pending transactions involving the delivery of three ATR 72-600 aircraft and three Airbus A220-300 aircraft in 2020.  Chorus expects all these deliveries will be deferred.

The Company’s Voyageur subsidiary, which represents less than 10% of Chorus’ consolidated revenue and net income, is engaged in specialty contract flying, primarily for international organizations engaged in humanitarian missions, and specialty maintenance, repair, overhaul (‘MRO’) and parts sales. Voyageur is experiencing continued demand overseas to support humanitarian efforts, contracted flying for cargo services, and there has been no interruption to the air ambulance operation in New Brunswick. Voyageur’s MRO operation continues in servicing essential aviation customer requirements.

Initiatives to Preserve Liquidity

Given the uncertainty related to the duration and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Chorus is suspending its dividend following payment of the previously declared dividend payable on April 17, 2020 to shareholders of record on March 31, 2020 (the ‘March 2020 Dividend’). After payment of the March 2020 Dividend, no further dividends will be paid until further notice and the dividend reinvestment program (‘DRIP’) will also be suspended. Based on current shares outstanding, the company’s $0.48 cent dividend results in approximately C$77 million in annual dividends declared and based on a 29% DRIP participation rate, approximately C$55 million in annual dividends paid in cash. The suspension of the dividend will preserve significant cash to strengthen the Company’s balance sheet through this crisis.

In addition, Chorus has executed a letter of offer with Export Development Canada to provide an unsecured US$100 million revolving credit facility to be used for general corporate purposes, which further bolsters Chorus’ liquidity position. The facility will be unsecured, repayable in two years, and contain customary covenants and events of default, including an event of default that would be triggered upon a change in control of Chorus. The facility offered under this letter of offer remains subject to the satisfaction of customary conditions precedent to closing, including the negotiation and execution of a definitive loan agreement and the consent of the lenders under Chorus’ operating line of credit. There can be no assurance that these conditions will be satisfied.

As reported previously, the Company has an existing C$100 million revolving operating facility, of which C$75 million is committed and C$25 million is uncommitted. This facility can be used to fund working capital at the Company and its Jazz and Voyageur subsidiaries. The Company currently has a drawn balance (including letters of credit) of approximately C$40 million. 

The Company is also in the process of raising approximately US$30 to US$50 million in financing to be secured by up to four unencumbered aircraft.  These financings were first mentioned in Chorus’ news release dated March 18, 2020, and the range of anticipated proceeds has widened as the Company explores approaches to refinancing these unencumbered aircraft that could yield to lower proceeds but provide increased flexibility under certain existing loan agreements. These financings are currently anticipated to close in the Company’s second fiscal quarter, subject to the negotiation and execution of definitive agreements and the satisfaction of conditions precedent to closing. There can be no assurance that these conditions will be satisfied.

In addition to the temporary layoffs noted earlier, Joe Randell, President and CEO will forgo 70% of his salary, and members of the executive team will forgo up to 50% of their salary. Further the Board of Directors has taken a 25% reduction in fees.

All areas of the Company are under review with the objective of reducing costs to ensure a strong organization that is ready to resume normal operations as soon as this pandemic abates. 

The duration and impact of this crisis are unknown.  With these measures, the Company anticipates having sufficient liquidity to fund ongoing operations, planned capital expenditures, and principal and interest payments related to long-term borrowings. 

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

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

ERIC ATKINS, TRANSPORTATION REPORTER PUBLISHED APRIL 1, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With a report from Laura Stone

Flight-simulator company CAE pivots to ventilator production, plans 10,000 units within three months

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

GREG MCARTHUR, SECURITIES REGULATION REPORTER, APRIL 5, 2020

With the covid-19 crisis impacting everybodyÕs life, a CAE team in Montreal has sprung into action to create a ventilator in less than two weeks! This is a simple, resistant and easy to manufacture ventilator that could be used for patients with respiratory complications due to COVID-19. We have tested it on our healthcare simulation mannequin. We are ready to collaborate with other companies to secure the sourcing of components and manufacturing (10 000 ventilators in 3 months) of this ventilator as soon as it is approved by Health Canada.CAE

CAE Inc., a Montreal-based manufacturer that specializes in flight simulators, has created a ventilator prototype it hopes to mass produce, placing the company among a growing number of businesses that have responded to calls to industry to help contain the fallout from the novel coronavirus.

About two weeks ago, CAE assembled a team of a dozen specialists who worked tirelessly to come up with a design after facing calls from political leaders to help out in the crisis, chief technology officer Marc St-Hilaire said in an interview.

“Our CEO has given the mandate to us, ‘Go full blast,’ ” Mr. St-Hilaire said. “We’re taking this as an order to action. We’re mobilizing the army.”

Although CAE – which has a market value of about $4.2-billlion – is best known for its flight simulators, which are used to train pilots in both civil aviation and defence, it also produces surgical and medical simulators, which account for about 4 per cent of its annual revenue.

The company employs doctors, including a chief medical officer, who were included in the ventilator design team, Mr. St-Hilaire said. The result is a prototype that the company has tested on simulation mannequins – outfitted with iron lungs – which CAE says is effective.

Ventilators are used to keep patients’ lungs supplied with oxygen when they are unable to breathe on their own and are vital to keeping alive those with the most severe cases of COVID-19. It’s still not known whether Canada could experience a ventilator shortage, but the federal government, as well as its provincial counterparts, have called on manufacturers to fill a potential void for the devices, as well as medical masks and other personal protective equipment used by health care workers.

CAE hopes to mass produce ventilators if it can receive the necessary certifications from the federal government, Mr. St-Hilaire said. Last Thursday morning, following several reports in the Quebec media about CAE’s project, the company held a teleconference with 33 officials from the federal government about the prototype’s efficacy and CAE’s capacity for manufacturing ventilators at its main Montreal plant, he said.

Normally, such approvals for manufacturing a medical product take place over many months and years. “We are not in normal times. We are in a race, and so the government is taking extraordinary measures,” Mr. St-Hilaire said.

CAE declined to answer questions about how COVID-19 has affected the company’s sales, but social distancing policies have, in general, hit the aviation sector hard. The company has no specific orders in place for its proposed ventilators, but Mr. St-Hilaire said the company’s chief executive, Marc Parent, has had discussions with Canadian politicians – whom he declined to identify – but who he said have challenged CAE to fill the demand.

The company has set a production goal similar to the target set by Linamar Corp., an engine parts company based in Guelph, Ont., that has partnered with a small medical company, O-Two Medical Technologies Inc., to produce 10,000 ventilators. CAE intends on building 10,000 ventilators in three months, Mr. St-Hilaire said.

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The stock price of both Linamar and CAE has plummeted since North American governments began implementing public health policies designed to slow the spread of the virus, such as restricting travel and encouraging self isolation. In the past three months, Linimar’s share price has dropped from about $48 to $28.27 at Friday’s close. Over that same period, CAE’s share price has dropped from about $34.60 to $15.87.

He said that the motivation for CAE’s team, and the company’s suppliers, is the potential positive impact. The company was initially spurred by the Code Life Ventilator Challenge, which is sponsored by the Montreal General Hospital Foundation – a competition to come up with a low-cost, high-quality ventilator.

A panel of judges is scheduled to announce the three winning projects on April 15.

“Every company feels touched by this. They all want to save the life of their parents, their neighbours, their colleagues,” Mr. St-Hilaire said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘You are a traitor’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intimidation from a distance

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

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

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

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

‘I don’t want to stop’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coronavirus: More infected passengers reported on flights involving B.C. airports

News provided by Global News – link to story and updates

BY SHELBY THOM GLOBAL NEWS ~ Posted April 5, 2020

WATCH: Videos from Global News

Speaking from outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the federal government has now formalized its updated rules for domestic travel across Canada. Anyone showing symptoms of the novel coronavirus will now be banned from boarding domestic flights and intercity passenger trains, the prime minister announced at a press conference March 28.

The BC Centre for Disease Control has added three more international flights and five domestic flights in the past week to its list of COVID-19 in-flight exposures involving passengers who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus. 

The new international flights with a COVID-19 case on board include:

  • March 11 – Air Canada 37 Vancouver to Melbourne, rows n/a
  • March 17 – Delta (unknown flight number) Seattle to Vancouver, rows n/a
  • March 21 – Air Canada 855 London to Vancouver, rows n/a

The new domestic flights with a COVID-19 case on board include:

  • March 10 – Air Canada 102 Vancouver to Toronto, rows n/a
  • March 10 – Air Canada 416 Toronto to Montreal, rows n/a
  • March 15 – WestJet 3103 Calgary to Nanaimo, rows n/a
  • March 21 – Air Canada 8420 Vancouver to Kelowna, rows n/a
  • March 24 – Air Canada 8245 Terrace to Vancouver, rows n/a

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The BCCDC says as of March 27, B.C. no longer directly contacts passengers from domestic flights who were seated near a confirmed case during the flight.

Passengers in the affected seats may have been exposed to COVID-19 and should self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days following the flight.

Other passengers are not required to self-isolate but should self-monitor for onset of symptoms for 14 days after the flight.Coronavirus outbreak: Passengers on virus-stricken cruise ships board chartered flights home

For flights with affected seats not specified, the BCCDC recommends that flight passengers self-isolate and monitor for symptoms for 14 days following the flight.

There are now 17 international flights taking off or landing at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in which a passenger tested positive for the novel coronavirus after arrival.

There are also 18 domestic flights involving Vancouver, Victoria, Kelowna, Kamloops, Nanaimo, Terrace and Prince George airports where a passenger later tested positive for the disease.

As of March 25, it is mandatory under the Quarantine Act that anyone arriving in B.C. from outside of Canada is required to stay home for 14 days upon their arrival.Canadians stuck in Nepal look to federal government for help getting home

Returning travellers that develop respiratory symptoms are also required to self-isolate for a period of 10 days after the onset of symptoms.

For a full list of affected international and domestic flights, click here. 

For advice on self-isolation and self-monitoring, click here. 

If you believe you have COVID-19 symptoms, you’re asked to do a self-assessment.

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

WestJet: 5 April Update

Received directly from WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership

WESTJET FLIGHTS RECONNECT CANADIANS IN HAVANA AND SAN SALVADOR WITH HOME

Today, WestJet’s repatriation flights from Havana (HAV), Cuba and San Salvador (SAL), El Salvador to Toronto (YYZ) safely carried 344 Canadians back home after international and transborder flying ceased with the rapid advancement of COVID-19.

These flights are part of the airline’s special operations in getting Canadians from international destinations amidst the closing of borders including two flights from Port of Spain (POS), a flight from Havana (HAV) and today’s flight from San Salvador. Altogether these four flights will carry almost 700 citizens home.

In addition, between March 17 and March 25, the WestJet Group of Companies also carried approximately 10,000 Canadians from international and transborder locations.

“The WestJet Group is proud to play a part in bringing Canadians home,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “We remain committed to assisting the Government of Canada as they work to repatriate as many Canadians as possible and I thank those WestJetters who are standing up in the face of this crisis.”

These flights are part of WestJet’s efforts to care for Canadian citizens after the suspension of international service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, WestJet is keeping critical economic lifelines open in Canada through continued operations to all the cities it currently serves with decreased frequency.

Additional flights:

  • Tuesday, April 7 from Port of Spain (POS), Trinidad and Tobago to Toronto on WestJet’s 737-800

 AFFECTED FLIGHTS – visit the blog (updated)

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.

Westjet: 4 April Update

Received directly from WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership

4 April 2020

WESTJET BRINGS 172 CANADIANS HOME FROM PORT OF SPAIN 

Today, 172 Canadians are back on Canadian soil after arriving in Toronto from Port of Spain (POS), Trinidad and Tobago this evening.  

The charter was WestJet’s first repatriation flight in collaboration with the Government of Canada.  

Said Captain Koko Gillis, “It was a good feeling to be able to welcome all of these citizens on board and know they are finally getting home. I felt honoured to be a part of this operation on behalf of WestJet.” 

These flights are part of WestJet’s efforts to care for Canadian citizens after the suspension of international service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to repatriation flights, WestJet is keeping critical economic lifelines open in Canada through continued operations to all the cities it currently serves with decreased frequency.  

Additional flights: 

·         Sunday, April 5, from Havana, Cuba to Toronto on WestJet’s 737-800  

·         Sunday, April 5, from San Salvador (SAL), El Salvador to Toronto on WestJet’s 737-800 

·         Tuesday, April 7 from Port of Spain (POS), Trinidad and Tobago to Toronto on WestJet’s 737-800 

AFFECTED FLIGHTS – visit the blog (updated) 

·         We have made updates to our affected flights blog, the changes now enable you to search by city  

·         We appreciate your continued assistance in sharing these updates with the public. 

·         All information on affected flights remains posted here: https://blog.westjet.com/operational-updates-coronavirus-covid-19/ 

Canada’s Air Transat retires A310-300s

News provided by ch-aviation.com and Mark Brandon-Youtube

02.04.2020 – 07:06 UTC

Air Transat (TS, Montréal Trudeau) retired all three of its remaining A310-300(ET)s at the end of March.

The type’s last revenue flight was operated on March 30, when C-GSAT (msn 600) flew from Porto via Halifax to Toronto Pearson. The aircraft subsequently joined the other two A310s, C-GPAT (msn 597) and C-GTSY (msn 447), in storage at Montréal Mirabel.

The airline has since confirmed in a statement to ch-aviation that the A310-300s have indeed been permanently withdrawn from service and will not be reactivated after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Air Transat was planning to retire the A310s over the coming months as its new A321-200neo(LR)s deliver from Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac).

2020 (c) Copyright Mark Brandon

A sad sight! Here we have the 4th Air Transat A310 to be retired, here she is departing Montreal for the very last time on a short ferry flight to Mirabel where she will be scrapped! Air Transat is the last North American airline to still operate the A310 commercially but that will change by the end of the year.

Active (As of Jan 2020) C-GPAT, C-GSAT, C-GTSY, C-GTSW

Retired: C-GTSF (Oct 2017), C-FDAT (Nov 2017), C-GLAT (Jan 2020), C-GTSH (Jan 2020).

They have said that they will retire there entire fleet by the end of 2020, so you better catch them while you can! History of C-GTSH: Built in 1991, and delivered to Lufthansa in 1992 before being sold to Air Transat in 2004. This aircraft is 28 years old and has 2 x GE CF6-80C2A2.

Mark Brandon

Greater Toronto Airports Authority Responds to the Impact of COVID-19

Provided by Greater Toronto Airports Authority/CNW

Reduced passenger numbers, increased cargo numbers, additional rent relief and further government support needed at Canada’s largest airport

TORONTO, April 3, 2020 /CNW/ – The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which operates and maintains Toronto Pearson under a ground lease arrangement with the Government of Canada, continues to work to ensure safe operations and to support the national economy through cargo operations. Additionally, passenger airlines have begun to use their aircraft to move cargo across Canada and around the world. Toronto Pearson is dedicated to working with all carriers to keep the flow of goods moving in support of the Canadian economy, including critical goods needed to fight COVID-19. 

The GTAA is grateful for the Government of Canada’s decision to address the immediate challenge of 2020 airport rent. This initial step is welcome news. Yet, the impact is much deeper and wider, therefore, in support of the Canadian Airports Council (CAC), the GTAA has today written to the federal government asking for additional measures to assist in recovery of the aviation sector and restore public confidence in Canada’s travel and tourism sectors. 

“Like all airports around the world, Toronto Pearson has felt the dramatic and unprecedented impacts of COVID-19—impacts which extend well beyond the airport to the wider aviation, travel and tourism sectors,” said Deborah Flint, President and CEO of the GTAA. “Passenger numbers at Toronto Pearson continue to drop significantly from an average of 130,000 per day to 5,000 per day. The number of flights has dropped as well, from an average of 1,300 per day to approximately 350 per day. Additionally, only 9 passenger airlines are expected to operate at Toronto Pearson this week, as compared to 67 airlines that were operating three weeks ago.” 

At Toronto Pearson, the GTAA has been working with all government agencies, airlines and the 400+ employers who operate at the airport to help with the safe movement of Canadians as they have flown back home while the COVID-19 pandemic has affected global travel, trade and the economy. “Airport workers are dedicated to keeping the operation running smoothly and we thank them for their ongoing commitment to safe and secure operations,” added Flint.

The financial impact of the downturn in air travel is significant, impacting the GTAA’s aeronautical and commercial revenues, and airport improvement fees. Similar to other Canadian airports, the GTAA has taken immediate steps to address the financial impacts, including the reduction of planned 2020 operating costs and capital spending, the closure of parts of the airport’s facilities, and new measures to protect employees and passengers. 

The GTAA is seeking the following short-term assistance from government:  

  1. Regulatory flexibility and funding: The GTAA and other Canadian airports are seeking flexibility to adjust tight implementation deadlines and dedicated federal funding to help airports meet pending regulatory requirements.
  2. 2021/22 relief from ground lease payments:  While relief from airport rent for the remainder of 2020 helps, the impact is much deeper and wider. The industry is grappling with the reality that the recovery of the aviation sector may take two to three years. As a result, the GTAA is seeking further relief from airport ground rent through 2022. The sooner that such relief is assured, the better positioned the sector will be to retain jobs and advance capital that will help stimulate the economy.

Additionally, longer-term considerations include: 

  • Capital project costs and stimulus funding: The cost of building airport facilities in a post-COVID environment will significantly increase in order to restore the public’s confidence and meet public expectations that facilities incorporate measures to address physical distancing and reduce congestion. As a result, the GTAA looks to the government to support “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects that will be needed to accommodate today’s new realities. Moreover, the GTAA looks to the federal government to consider investments in transit projects that improve ground and global connectivity. Additionally, changes to the National Trade Corridor Fund criteria that broaden the scope of eligible projects in support of projects that promote a higher transit mode split would be welcomed.
  • Enhanced revenue tools: The GTAA asks that Canada join more than 60 countries in allowing duty free in arrivals areas, in order to welcome visitors to Canada with made-in-Canada products like local wine and spirits. Arrivals duty free would generate more revenue for governments and airport authorities, create new Canadian jobs and repatriate sales that today are happening at foreign airports.
  • Pursue border modernization and innovation: Taking steps to improve the movement of travellers through the border will help rebuild traveller confidence and stimulate international travel and economic recovery. Specifically, there is a need to fast track the deployment of proven technologies at airports, including e-gates, biometrics and CT scanners. These measures will maximize passenger safety, security and flow with the added benefit of improving asset productivity and minimizing the airport’s need to build larger and more costly infrastructure, in ways that promote passenger safety and physical distancing. In a post-COVID environment, government will need to fully invest in its agencies (The Public Heath Agency of Canada, Canada Border Services Agency and Canadian Air Transport Security Authority) to ensure they are resourced and equipped to maximize passenger safety, confidence in disease tracking and mitigation across international borders.
  • Support travel and tourism: At this critical moment, the government’s help is needed to provide support for Toronto Pearson’s airline partners who have been devastated by COVID-19, to enable the return of limited international city pairs as soon as is safe and practicable as a means of promoting future international travel. Moreover, the GTAA requests that government boosts funding for Destination Canada to promote travel domestically and internationally, and that government takes immediate measures to ensure that the whole travel and tourism ecosystem gets the help it needs.

“The aviation, travel and tourism industries have experienced difficult setbacks before, and we have risen to meet the challenge head on,” stated Flint. “I am confident that by working collaboratively with our government partners, airlines, airport retailers, hoteliers, tourism businesses and attractions, as well as workers, we can begin to identify ways to help restore public confidence in air travel and our airports once again. From implementing technology-based solutions within the airport environment to adapting our terminal infrastructure to allow for greater physical spacing, we are turning our attention to what the future of aviation will look like.”