New federal support for Canada’s pandemic-battered airline industry will be contingent on carriers providing refunds to passengers whose flights were cancelled, the government announced on Sunday.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau laid out the requirement as he announced that Ottawa is ready to respond to the sector’s desperate pleas for federal assistance by launching talks later this week.
Canada’s commercial airlines have been hit hard by COVID-19, with passenger levels down as much as 90 per cent thanks to a combination of travel restrictions and fear of catching the illness.
That has prompted airlines to furlough hundreds of pilots and technicians and discontinue dozens of regional routes since March. They have also cancelled numerous pre-booked trips, offering passengers credits or vouchers instead of refunds.
Many Canadians have since expressed anger over not getting their money back. The Canadian Transportation Agency received 8,000 complaints between mid-March and the end of August, most of which are believed to be related to refunds.
Canadian government says conversations ongoing with airlines, exploring ‘all options’
Passengers have also filed a handful of proposed class-action lawsuits and three petitions garnering more than 100,000 signatures that call for customer reimbursement.
Garneau acknowledged the challenges facing the sector as he revealed the pending talks.
“The air sector cannot respond to these challenges on its own, given the unprecedented impacts on its operations,” Garneau said in a statement.
“We are ready to establish a process with major airlines regarding financial assistance which could include loans and potentially other support to secure important results for Canadians,” he added. “We anticipate beginning discussions with them this week.”
Yet Garneau also made clear what the government would be demanding from airlines, starting with refunds of what is believed to be millions of dollars in pre-paid flight tickets and a curb on cancelled routes.
“Before we spend one penny of taxpayer money on airlines, we will ensure Canadians get their refunds,” he said. “We will ensure Canadians and regional communities retain air connections to the rest of Canada.”
WestJet to refund some passengers whose flights were cancelled due to COVID-19
It was not immediately clear whether that would include pushing Air Canada and others to resume dozens of routes that are currently suspended.
The tough words around refunds were cautiously welcomed Sunday as a good first step by Canadian Automobile Association vice-president Ian Jack, whose organization is one of the largest retailers of vacations and leisure travel in Canada.
“It’s the starter pistol, but it’s by no means a fait accompli,” Jack said. “We’ll be watching these negotiations closely. There is now a concrete, on-the-record commitment from the government that we expect them to honour.”
In contrast to Canadian authorities, the European Commission and the U.S. Department of Transportation have required airlines to refund passengers for cancelled flights.
Airports in Atlantic Canada “Decimated” by Airline Cuts
The U.S. and European countries including France and Germany have also offered billions in financial relief to struggling carriers. Ottawa has provided no industry-specific bailout to airlines.
The pandemic has devastated the airline industry, with billions of dollars in losses for Canadian carriers amid grounded flights and tight international borders.
Canadian airline revenues in 2020 will fall by $14.6 billion or 43 per cent from last year, according to estimates in May from the International Air Transport Association.
The National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents major airlines, said it was encouraged by the news that Ottawa is looking to work with carriers and help “stabilize” the industry.
“The pandemic has had a devastating impact on airlines, our employees, on regional service and the communities we serve across the country. Airlines are struggling to remain viable because of the economic chaos crated by COVID-19,” President and CEO Mike McNaney said in a statement.
“All measures have been taken to reduce costs, and revenue has fallen beyond the means of even the most extreme cost cutting measures to address. The industry will not recover without strong federal leadership.”
— With files from Global News
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Association calls for Halifax restaurants and bars to close amid COVID-19 spread – CBC.ca
The Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia is calling for all restaurants and bars in Halifax to close to dine-in customers for at least the next two weeks because of rising COVID-19 case numbers in the area.
Gordon Stewart, executive director of RANS, said the association’s board of directors held an emergency meeting Monday night and decided unanimously to make the closure recommendation to its members and to Public Health.
Restaurants and bars have been a significant site of COVID-19 transmission in Nova Scotia over the past two weeks, and Stewart said consumer confidence has been “wiped out.”
“It really has hurt. Business has taken a sharp decline. But it’s more than that — it’s that we’re scared that the spread gets so bad that we end up like some of the western provinces right now,” Stewart told CBC’s Information Morning, referring to Manitoba and Alberta, which are experiencing overwhelming coronavirus surges.
Stewart said he’ll leave it to the provincial government to decide what geographical area to shut down, based on the current epidemiology. But he expects it to encompass downtown Halifax, which has been the epicentre of the province’s current outbreak of the coronavirus.
Public Health has not yet endorsed the RANS recommendation. Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang and Premier Stephen McNeil are scheduled to hold a COVID-19 briefing at 3 p.m. today.
Stewart said the closure recommendation is focused on “full-service” restaurants. He said he supports restaurants in hotels staying open for hotel guests only, and coffee shops staying open for take-out.
The recommendations are not meant for the rest of the province, outside HRM.
Thank you to the restaurants and bars that have already made the hard choice to close to dine-in and to <a href=”https://twitter.com/RestAssocNS?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@RestAssocNS</a> for this. Let’s do our best to support them: gift cards, take-out and a promise to return when we can. <a href=”https://t.co/d902Xh29Kj”>https://t.co/d902Xh29Kj</a>
Stewart said closing will bring “a lot of repercussions for operators” but he expects it to be effective in slowing the spread of the second wave of COVID-19.
“It’s really not about the economy now. It’s really about the health and the long-term outlook of our communities,” Stewart said.
Over the past few days, many Halifax-area restaurants and bars have already decided to close — some as a precaution and others because of possible COVID-19 exposures on the premises.
Among them is The Old Triangle, where owners closed voluntarily on Monday, only to learn a few hours later that they were in fact the site of a possible exposure.
“Honestly I think it’s the right move,” said Old Triangle co-owner Brendan Doherty of the RANS recommendation.
“We are at a bit of a tipping point so it does make sense to take at least two weeks … to just kind of get reset and get back to where we’ve been.”
“We’ve been very fortunate [inside the Atlantic bubble] … and it’d be nice to go back to that as soon as possible.”
Doherty said a government-mandated shut-down would help his business, and others, because it would allow them to access additional rent relief through federal programs.
“It’s all about cost-saving during a shut down, and rent is the biggest cost we do incur.”
Will 'postal code discrimination' with Brampton and Mississauga auto insurance end? – Brampton Guardian
Many support P.E.I.'s decision to suspend Atlantic bubble – CBC.ca
Many Islanders reacted to news of P.E.I. opting out of the Atlantic bubble by sharing the sentiments of Premier Dennis King — it’s unfortunate but necessary.
King announced that as of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, non-essential travel in and out of P.E.I. would not be permitted, though he did allow for some flexibility for people rushing to get home.
Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker of the Green Party tweeted his support for the premier’s decision.
“I was glad to hear that P.E.I. is temporarily leaving the Atlantic bubble to protect Islanders’ health,” he said.
Penny Walsh-McGuire, CEO of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, said she encourages Islanders to take the opportunity to shop local this holiday season.
This temporary closure of the P.E.I. border is a layer of precaution that will allow our business community to continue to operate and to avoid entering the full lockdown situations we see in other parts of Canada.— Penny Walsh-McGuire
“While it is unfortunate that we are moving towards further restrictions, the chamber supports the decision to keep Islanders safe and businesses open, especially as case numbers rise across the country,” she said in a release.
“This temporary closure of the P.E.I. border is a layer of precaution that will allow our business community to continue to operate and to avoid entering the full lockdown situations we see in other parts of Canada.”
Lennox Island First Nation Chief Darlene Bernard said she and many in the Mi’kmaq community travel between the provinces to visit family and friends, but credited King and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison making the “prudent” decision in the interest of all Island residents.
“I understand the second wave is coming and I think we’re all seeing it across the country and right now P.E.I. is the place to be, right, so we have to try to stay here and shop here and keep things going here in our province,” she said.
“We all know, when we move, that little bug moves, so we have to stop its movement.”
Testing on Lennox Island
Bernard said she and a number of others were tested at a temporary COVID-19 clinic set up Friday on Lennox Island after cases began to spread in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. She said all those tests came back negative.
“We do travel quite a bit between our communities, to Big Cove and places like that, because our families are very close and that’s why we had the testing done on Lennox, too, because we had people coming in from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia areas and we were travelling outside of the province as well just getting ready for Christmas and all those kinds of things.”
Some people CBC P.E.I. spoke with in Charlottetown also supported the new travel restrictions.
Holland College student Lilly Warner said she is disappointed because it could mean she won’t be able to spend the holidays with family in Halifax, but thinks it is best for public safety.
Dylan Echlin, who is from Toronto but lives in Charlottetown, said he knew it would be unrealistic to think he would be able to visit family over the holidays due to cases in Ontario.
“It’s something they needed to do for sure just because of the impact of what’s going on in the rest of the world and how many cases are evolving with Moncton and Halifax.”
More from CBC P.E.I.
Coronavirus: What's happening in Canada and around the world on Tuesday – CBC.ca
Apple to release iPad Pro with OLED display in H2 of 2021 – GSMArena.com news – GSMArena.com
1/3 of Canadians report gaining weight during coronavirus: poll – Global News
Silver investment demand jumped 12% in 2019
Iran anticipates renewed protests amid social media shutdown
Galaxy M31 July 2020 security update brings Glance, a content-driven lockscreen wallpaper service
- Art13 hours ago
The Art of Building the Impossible – The New Yorker
- Science17 hours ago
Utah monolith mystery: Wildlife officials' 12-ft desert discovery – Daily Mail
- Media23 hours ago
Israeli Prime Minister Secretly Flew To Saudi Arabia, Israeli Media Reports – NPR
- Science15 hours ago
A 2020 space oddity? Mysterious metal object found in Utah desert – Global News
- Politics23 hours ago
Hiring of family shows that in politics, ethics are all relative – Toronto Star
- Tech8 hours ago
Black Friday Sony TV Deals (2020): 60 Inch, 65 Inch & 75 Inch Sony 4K TV Deals Reviewed by Deal Tomato – GlobeNewswire
- Science18 hours ago
A 2020 space oddity? Mysterious metal object found in Utah desert – cjoy.com
- Media15 hours ago
Social media 'out of control,' says Norfolk mayor – Edmonton Examiner