Air Canada expects to resume operations in Bathurst on June 1

From CBC News – link to source story

Air Canada was the only carrier at the airport, which has been almost idle since last June

Isabelle Leger · CBC News · Apr 13, 2021

The Bathurst airport has been essentially empty for almost a year because Air Canada cut services during the pandemic. (CBC)

After Ottawa’s offer of a $5.9 billion aid package for Air Canada, the Bathurst Regional Airport has announced the airline’s services will resume in the coming months. 

Air Canada was the only carrier at the airport, which was left it practically empty when the airline suspended all flights last June. 

Serge Cormier, the Liberal MP for Acadie-Bathurst, said Air Canada will slowly work its way back to normal operations starting with a limited service. 

“We need an airport in the area, there’s no way possible to have any economic development if we don’t have that infrastructure, so it’s a very good announcement,” said Cormier. 

“It was very difficult for the Bathurst airport, very difficult for the region, but now we’re hopefully going to see the end of the tunnel.” 

Cormier said people still need to be cautious and stressed this announcement does not mean it’s time to travel for pleasure. 

As part of Ottawa’s deal with Air Canada, the airline promised to restore most regional services in the country. No other airports in New Brunswick have confirmed the carrier will return.

Lee Stever, the acting mayor of Bathurst, said he was surprised by the announcement, but sees it as a positive step for the region that’s struggled without air service for almost a year. 

Serge Cormier, the MP for Acadie-Bathurst, says the annoucement of Air Canada’s return to Bathurst doesn’t mean people should start travelling for pleasure.

“A lot of people don’t realize how many people go through the airport here, as well as the amount of freight that flies out of Bathurst,” said Stever.

“There are things like our fishing industry and so on and so forth that depend on the airport, and it’s been very difficult over the past year.” 

Stever said the airport is also used by Miramichi and Campbellton residents and provides jobs in the area.

As part of the deal with the federal government, Air Canada agreed to refund Canadians for their cancelled flights after February 2020. 

“We need all the jobs we can get,” said Stever. 

Air Canada employs about 15,000 in Canada, with a few of those in Bathurst. 

Cormier said he estimates a full recovery from the pandemic, and that employees who were laid off due to COVID-19 will likely get their job back in the near future. 

“This is a win-win situation for everybody,” he said.  

Air Canada has said it wants to issue refunds for cancelled flights as soon as possible, and it began accepting requests for refunds Tuesday. 

The Bathurst Regional Airport just secured service through PAL Airlines last week, to begin in August. 

An official from the airport was not available for an interview Tuesday.

Details of Financial Support to Air Canada

From: Department of Finance Canada | 12 April 2021

Backgrounder

The government’s financial support to Air Canada is being provided under the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF). The Canada Enterprise Emergency Funding Corporation (CEEFC) has committed to provide $4 billion in repayable loans and an equity investment in Air Canada of $500 million in newly-issued Class B Voting Shares at a 15 per cent discount to their recent trading price. CEEFC will also receive warrants on Air Canada stock in an amount equal to 10 per cent of the loan commitments (CEEFC’s news release contains detailed information regarding the warrants).

As a condition of its agreement with CEEFC, Air Canada has made a number of commitments as outlined below.

Refunds for Canadians

The agreement with Air Canada ensures that customers who had their flights cancelled, or took action to cancel a flight because of the pandemic, are not financially disadvantaged. Under the terms of the financing agreement, Air Canada has committed to offer refunds to any passenger who wants a refund for certain pandemic-related cancelations by the carrier that CEEFC will finance. Air Canada has committed to providing customers with their refunds as soon as possible – beginning April 30, 2021 at the latest. CEEFC will provide additional loan financing of up to $1.4 billion for Air Canada to provide these refunds. Travel agents may assist in the processing of refunds for tickets the travel agents sold but will not be required to refund their commission to Air Canada.

Protecting Jobs

As a condition of the agreement with CEEFC, Air Canada has committed to maintain jobs at current levels, to respect collective bargaining agreements, and protect workers’ pensions. Air Canada currently has 14,859 active Canadian employees.

As required more generally under LEEFF, Air Canada has also agreed to restrictions on dividends, buying back shares, and executive compensation. The company will also provide climate-related financial disclosures, including how its future operations will support environmental sustainability and national climate goals.

Restarting Vital Domestic Air Services

The terms of the financial support will ensure that Canadians and communities retain air connections to the rest of Canada, through the restart of service at airports temporarily suspended by Air Canada. For seven airports where Air Canada had permanently canceled service, the airline will seek interline agreements with other carriers with a view to ensure those Canadians continue to have convenient access to their preferred airports and the flights they need.

Service will resume by no later than June 1, 2021, at the following suspended airports based on public health advice:

  • Bathurst
  • Comox
  • Fredericton
  • Gander
  • Goose Bay
  • Kamloops
  • North Bay
  • Penticton
  • Prince Rupert
  • Saint John
  • Sandspit
  • Sydney
  • Yellowknife

Supporting Jobs in Canada’s Aerospace Industry

The aerospace industry supported 235,000 Canadian jobs and contributed over $28 billion in gross domestic product to the Canadian economy in 2019.

This financing agreement will allow Air Canada to continue to be a vital customer of the Canadian aerospace industry by completing its planned purchase of aircraft as set out in its business plan, which includes aircraft built in Canada, such as the Airbus A220. Aerospace is one of the most innovative and export-driven industries in Canada. The negative impact of the pandemic on the bottom line of airlines has put the relationship between airlines and the aerospace industry at risk, threatening job security in the sector. Ensuring that Air Canada maintains its status as a key customer of Canada’s aerospace industry is important to ensuring the long term success of the sector and the thousands of jobs it supports.