Air Canada blasted its own government on Friday, accusing the Trudeau administration of creating an “impossible operating environment” for the airline after it posted a CAD$1.55 billion operating loss in the six months to the end of June. The Canadian government is facing mounting calls to relax tough travel restrictions and quarantine rules that have all but ground international air travel to and from Canada to a halt.
“As with many other major airlines worldwide, Air Canada’s second-quarter results confirm the devastating and unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed travel and border restrictions and quarantine requirements,” explained the airline’s chief executive Calin Rovinescu.
“Canada’s federal and inter-provincial restrictions have been among the most severe in the world, effectively shutting down most commercial aviation in our country,” Rovinescu lamented after it was revealed Air Canada passenger numbers were down 96 per cent on the same period last year.
Rovinescu urged Trudeau to take “reasonable steps” to safely reopen Canada, claiming that action was needed urgently. Other countries, Rovinescu argued, had already managed to loosen travel restrictions while balancing the priorities of public health.
Canada has advised against all but essential international travel since March 14, effectively nullifying travel insurance for anyone who does want to travel abroad. Most foreign citizens remain barred from entering Canada, while all returning Canadian citizens must undergo a strict 14-day quarantine, no matter where in the world they are returning from.
Returning travellers who break quarantine face up to six months in jail, while the penalty for infecting someone with COVID-19 is a prison sentence of up to three years.
More than 140 major Canadian corporations and travel and tourism companies recently wrote to the Canadian government to demand blanket travel restrictions be replaced with a more nuanced approach. Canada’s Transport Minister, Marc Garneau said Friday the government recognised the impact COVID-19 was having on the air sector but policies would be “guided by science and public health experts.”
Air Canada is currently working with Toronto-based Spartan Bioscience to explore the possibility of rapid COVID-19 testing at airports and says advanced biosafety measures under its CleanCare+ program reduces the risk of exposure to the novel Coronavirus.
Without government support, either through subsidies or a loosening of restrictions, Air Canada cautioned it might be forced to cut further – with more job losses or cancelling aircraft orders. That threat includes rescinding a purchase agreement for Airbus A220 aircraft that are made in Quebec.
But waiting for a vaccine for COVID-19, Rovinescu warned, was simply not an option.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently used by some of the biggest names in journalism.