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WestJet cuts ‘just the leading edge’ if feds don’t provide aid to airlines

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As Canada grapples with a second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic, experts say the airline industry needs aid from the government quickly, if it is going to recover.

On Wednesday, WestJet announced it would be “indefinitely” suspending flights across Atlantic Canada and to Quebec City as the COVID-19 outbreak continues to wreak havoc on the travel industry.

In total, more than 100 flights made to the region will be “eliminated.” WestJet says that is equivalent to nearly 80 per cent of its seat capacity to Atlantic Canada.

Ed Sims, president and CEO of WestJet, said the lack of travel demand “combined with domestic quarantines means that sadly we can no longer maintain our full Canadian network of service.”

Robert Kokonis, president of AirTrav Inc., said the announcement from WestJet is just a “precursor” of “much more dire news to come” regarding Canada’s aviation sector if the federal government doesn’t intervene soon.

“We’re going to see unravel what took our country’s top carriers not years, but decades to build, and it’s all going to unravel within a matter of months,” he told Global News. “It’s going to be a massive impact on jobs, interrelated ability of our carriers to connect Canada with the world unless we do something.

“So today’s announcement is just the leading edge, unless we do something fast.”

What’s more, WestJet is not the only airline in Canada to signal it is having difficulties as the pandemic continues.

On Tuesday, Toronto’s Porter Airlines announced it would be extending its flight suspension to Dec. 15.

In a news release on Sunday, Air Canada said it had agreed to revised terms with Transat AT — parent company of Air Transat —  to pay $5 per share for the company.

The new deal marks a sharp drop from the $18 per share originally pledged in the takeover bid.

Kokonis said the industry will not be able to recover without the help of the federal government.

“We’ve seen $123 billion of aid provided by governments around the world directly to the airline sector,” he said. “We’ve seen zero in this country.”

“So unless the federal government thinks that we can rebuild the sector in a matter of a year or two, they’re dreaming.”

The federal government did create the The Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), which offers large employers loans starting at $60 million. However, Kokonis said the proposed interest rates — at six per cent in the first year increasing to eight the following year — were “not tenable” for Canada’s air carriers.

Earlier this month, three unions representing thousands of the country’s airline workers called on the government for $7 billion in aid for the industry.

Kokonis, however, said airlines are not looking for bailouts, rather “loan guarantees” at an “attractive rate of interest” of about one or one and a half per cent.

He said the industry also needs support from government when it comes to testing for the virus.

“We need to have backstop loans [and] support from the government as far as rapid testing goes,” he said. “We’re not looking for grants, we’re not looking for free money, we’re not looking for bailouts.”

A monopoly in Canada’s airline industry?

Ambarish Chandra, associate professor of economics at the University of Toronto, told Global News that WestJet cutting its services back means the country’s other main airline, Air Canada, could monopolize on both domestic and international routes.

This means Canadians may have less choices when it comes to who they want to fly with once the pandemic is over.

“I’m sure it’s disappointing for travellers and for people who want choice and people are going to see service cut back in their communities,” he said.

“But, you know, you can understand why WestJet is making these decisions and why, you know, other airlines are making these decisions.”

A ‘new normal’

Airline pilot Dominic Daoust said he was “not surprised” by WestJet’s announcement.

“This news that we’re getting today, I think it’s a reminder of the state of the industry,” he told Global News. “And unfortunately, I think it tells us that things are going to get a little bit worse for the industry before it gets better.”

However, Daoust said he is “optimistic” that things will improve.

“I think that eventually the airline industry is going to pick up again,” he said. “Before all this, you know, if you go back a year ago the airline industry in Canada and worldwide was really booming.”

Daoust said before the COVID-19 outbreak there was a shortage of pilots, route frequency was increasing and demand was high.

“Now this pandemic hit, and everything kind of just ground to a halt,” he said. “And now we we have to weather that storm.”

He said until there’s some kind of “drastic change” in the pandemic, or the government is “willing to subsidize the airlines to get them moving again,” the industry will have to wait it out.

However, Daoust said he thinks the demand for travel “is still there,” adding that once a treatment or vaccine is developed to treat COVID-19, he is confident the industry will begin to rebound.

But it’s still unclear what exactly that will look like.

Kokonis said he doesn’t think the industry will return to how it was before the pandemic, adding that Canadians are likely to see a “new normal.”

“We’re going to see some downsizing permanently across the industry as some carriers around the world go bankrupt,” he said. “We hope we don’t see this in Canada.”

He said in the next three years, carriers that are lower in cost, and that focus on leisure travel are likely going to “do better.”

The long-haul premium travel market will likely be the slowest to recover, he said.

“But it’s going to take a minimum of five years, I think, to get back to kind of where we were [in] 2018, [or] 2019,” Kokonis said. “But even at that, we’re going to see some some systemic, lasting changes rippled through our industry.”

Chandra said some parts of the industry may never recover.

“There’s reason to believe that business travel in particular might never recover because many employers might realize that, you know, meetings online or on Zoom just as good as face to face meetings,” he said. “They might decide not to send their employees to trade shows or conventions or client meetings or site visits because they realize (they) aren’t needed, at least not in the numbers as before.”

He said these are all things the government should take into consideration when deciding if it is appropriate to bail out the airline industry.

 

 

 

Source:- Global News

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BCCDC flags 8 Vancouver flights for possible COVID-19 exposure – BC News – Castanet.net

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The BC Centre for Disease Control is warning airline passengers they may have been exposed to COVID-19 on multiple recent Vancouver flights. 

Eight new flights have been added to the BCCDC’s list of affected flights:

  • Oct. 15: Air Canada 8187, Vancouver to Fort St. John (Rows 2 – 6)
  • Oct. 19, Air Canada 8484, Vancouver to Edmonton (Rows 7 – 13)
  • Oct. 14: Air Canada 299, Winnipeg to Vancouver (Rows 21 – 27)
  • Oct. 16: WestJet 714, Vancouver to Toronto (Rows 17 – 23)
  • Oct. 17: WestJet 139, Calgary to Vancouver (Rows 1 – 7)
  • Oct. 11: WestJet 141, Edmonton to Vancouver (Rows 1 – 6)
  • Oct.14: Aeromexico 696, Mexico City to Vancouver (Not reported) 
  • Oct. 16: WestJet 725, Toronto to Vancouver (Rows 2 – 8)

Any travellers returning to B.C. are encouraged to check the public health agency’s website for updates about flights identified for the risk of exposure. Those travelling from outside of Canada, meanwhile, must arrive prepared with a 14-day self-isolation plan. 

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Another store in Orchard Park Mall calls it quits – KelownaNow

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Yet another Canadian retailer has called it quits in 2020.

This time it’s Montreal-based fashion retailer Le Chateau, which has occupied a storefront in Orchard Park Mall for decades.

On Friday, the company announced it will be closing 123 stores and cutting 1,400 employees who work in stores and at the company’s head office.

After 60 years in operation, Le Chateau Inc. is seeking court protection from creditors to allow it to liquidate its assets and close its stores.

The company said it has spent much of the COVID-19 pandemic trying to refinance or sell the business to a third party that would keep it in operation, but was unsuccessful.

“Its already evident impact on consumer demand for Le Chateau’s holiday party and occasion wear, which represents the core of our offering, has diminished Le Chateau’s ability to pursue its activities,” the company said.

“Regrettably, these circumstances leave the company with no option other than to commence the liquidation process.”

The company’s application comes after several other Canadian retailers have shuttered or downsized operations in the wake of the pandemic.

Reitmans Canada Ltd., Aldo Group Inc., DavidsTea Inc., Mountain Equipment Co-operative, Moores the Suit People Corp. and Laura’s Shoppe Inc. are among the dozens of retailers that have all filed for CCAA.

With files from the Canadian Press.

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Protesting COVID-19 measures 'just nonsense' — Windsor-Essex's top doc – Windsor Star

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Article content continued

“They think, ‘I know more than them — but I never went to any university or any school. I read something on the Facebook or I heard someone say that,’” Ahmed said. “It’s just nonsense.”

Ahmed said he is disturbed by the spread of misinformation, and lamented the “confusion and chaos” that lead to large numbers of people ignoring COVID-19 guidelines.

“Not following those measures results in what we are seeing right now in the U.S., what we are seeing right now in other areas of the country,” Ahmed said.

“I really worry about these people. They are doing a complete disservice to the entire community.”

Expressing his exasperation with anti-mask protesters, however, wasn’t Ahmed’s purpose for speaking with media on Friday.

In an update on the region’s COVID-19 situation, Ahmed noted that — in recent contrast to parts of the province like Toronto, Peel Region, and Ottawa — Windsor-Essex is doing well on most metrics.

For example, a new graph by the health unit shows that the percentage of local COVID-19 cases resulting from community transmission has not increased. Indeed, the figure dropped this month: as of Oct. 22, the proportion of new cases in Windsor-Essex that were acquired in the community is 25 per cent, going by a seven-day average.

A graph presented by the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit in an update on the region’s COVID-19 situation on Oct. 23, 2020. Photo by Windsor-Essex County Health Unit /Windsor Star

“It’s not bad compared to some of the other regions, and what it could be,” Ahmed said.

Local hospitalizations resulting from COVID-19, going by a 14-day moving average, have remained in the single digits since the beginning of September — a trend the health unit considers “low and stable.”

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