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Air Canada suspends more than 800 unvaccinated workers under new federal rules – CBC.ca

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Air Canada has suspended more than 800 employees for not being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in line with federal rules.

The vast majority of Air Canada’s 27,000 cabin crew, customer service agents and others have received both shots, chief executive Michael Rousseau said Tuesday.

“Our employees have done their part, with now over 96 per cent fully vaccinated,” he said on a conference call with investors. “The employees who are not vaccinated or do not have a medical or other permitted exemption have been put on unpaid leave.”

The layoffs are “across the company” rather than concentrated in any particular job, spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.

The proportions align with those at WestJet Airlines, where fewer than four per cent of workers — fewer than 300 out of 7,300 — are unvaccinated, the company said in an email.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month that as of Oct. 30, Ottawa would require federally regulated air, rail and shipping companies to establish mandatory vaccination policies for employees.

Leisure bookings have recovered, but not business travel

Air Canada said it sees hope on the horizon as revenues soared over 2020 levels last quarter amid stronger sales for winter, despite continuing to operate far below pre-pandemic capacity and at a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars.

Domestic leisure bookings have bounced back, prompting a recall of more than 10,000 laid-off employees since the start of the year — 6,500 of them since July. But business travel remains down across the board due in part to the persistence of remote work, executives said Tuesday.


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“We’re witnessing a strong rebound in VFR (visiting friends and relatives), and leisure traffic remains strong, specifically within North America, across the Atlantic and to sun destinations,” chief commercial officer Lucie Guillemette said on the conference call.

“We were pretty confident that come 2022 corporate Canada returns to their offices and business travel should return. But no doubt that for us, business has lagged a little bit.”

Revenue nearly tripled year over year to more than $2.1 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, beating expectations by more than 15 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv. Capacity also increased by 87 per cent.

But revenue fell more than 60 per cent short of Air Canada’s third-quarter figures in 2019 while capacity remained two-thirds below, as COVID-19 fallout continues to dent carriers’ bottom lines.

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‘No textbook on this type of recovery’

“There’s no textbook on this type of recovery, or any in the history,” said Rousseau, who took over as CEO in February.

“There’s no doubt we’re very encouraged by what we see. And there’s no doubt that the length of the recovery has moved in from the consensus of 2025 to at least 2024 and maybe 2023.”

In its outlook, the Montreal-based airline said it plans to expand its fourth-quarter capacity by about 135 per cent compared with the same period in 2020. However, that capacity — calculated using an industry metric called available seat miles — will barely reach half the amount of its pre-pandemic level.

Net cash flow of $153 million was well above analyst expectations of cash burn of up to $460 million. It marked the first quarter Air Canada has enjoyed cash flow in the black since the onset of the pandemic.

Rousseau also stressed a record cargo performance of more than $1 billion so far this year. The carrier began to shift toward air freight last spring, converting several of its retired Boeing 767 jetliners to cargo aircraft.

With fewer flights and less freight being transported in the luggage compartments of passenger planes, the price of shipping cargo by air has increased. Other airlines such as American Airlines and United Airlines also began operating cargo-only last year, hoping to use the opportunity to stem their losses.

Rising fuel prices will impact recovery

Robert Kokonis, president of Toronto-based consulting firm AirTrav Inc., called Air Canada’s results “a tremendous source of optimism.”

However, rising fuel prices and the pace of business travel’s revival remain areas of anxiety.

“Many employees have not returned to the office, companies are continuing to make use of virtual conferencing tools, and air travel for inter-office business and international trips continues to be restricted,” Kokonis said in an email.

“At least in the short-term, these factors will suppress demand for corporate travel, which is traditionally the highest contributor to airline top lines.”

Air Canada’s share price closed up $1.01 or 4.4 per cent at $24.02 on Tuesday.

Air Canada reported a loss of $640 million in its third quarter compared. The loss amounted to $1.79 per diluted share last quarter compared with a loss of $685 million or $2.31 per diluted share a year earlier.

Analysts had expected a loss of $554.7 million, or $1.44 per diluted share, according to Refinitiv.

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U.S. to revoke terrorist designation for Colombia’s FARC, add breakaway groups

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The United States will revoke its designation of the Colombian group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as a foreign terrorist organization on Tuesday while designating two breakaway groups as such, a senior State Department official said on Friday.

A review of the terrorist listing – required every five years under U.S. law – found that the leftist organization known by the Spanish acronym FARC should no longer be listed, The official said.

But the two dissident groups that have formed out of FARC, La Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP, or People’s Army, would be designated as foreign terrorist organizations, the official said.

“It’s a realignment to address these current threats,” the official said. “The FARC that existed five years ago no longer exists.”

Founded in 1964, FARC was responsible for summary executions and kidnappings of thousands of people, including Americans.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the United States was preparing to remove FARC from the list five years after the group signed a peace agreement with Bogota.

The State Department notified the U.S. Congress on Tuesday of its planned delisting of FARC. The Colombian government was formally notified on Wednesday.

The government of Colombia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision will allow U.S. government agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development to work on peace implementation in parts of Colombia where demobilized FARC soldiers are located, the official said.

“This is a priority for the Colombian government in the implementation of the peace agreement,” the official said.

 

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis in Washington; Additional reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler)

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Tunisian police say they shot, wounded extremist trying to attack them

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Tunisian police on Friday shot and wounded an extremist who sought to attack them with a knife and cleaver in the capital, authorities said.

The 31-year-old man, whose identity was not disclosed, shouted, “God is great. You are infidels,” as he ran toward police officers near the interior ministry, the ministry said in a statement.

Witnesses and local media said police shot the man in the leg and arrested him. The man, who was previously labelled an extremist by the government, was taken to hospital and is being investigated by an anti-terrorism unit, officials said.

Tunisian security forces have thwarted most militant plots in recent years and they have become more efficient at responding to those attacks that do occur, Western diplomats say.

The last major attacks in Tunisia took place in 2015 when militants killed scores of people in two separate assaults at a museum in Tunis and a beach resort in Sousse.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

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At least 19 killed in bus crash in central Mexico

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At least 19 people were killed and 20 more injured on Friday when a passenger bus traveling on a highway in central Mexico crashed into a house, authorities said.

The brakes on the bus, which was heading to a local religious shrine in the state of Mexico, failed, according to local media reports. State authorities did not disclose the possible causes of the accident.

Assistant state interior secretary Ricardo de la Cruz Musalem said that the injured had been transferred to hospitals, including some by air.

The state Red Cross said 10 ambulances had rushed to the area.

 

(Reporting by Sharay Angulo; writing by Laura Gottesdiener)

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