In response to changes with international travel guidelines, both Air Canada and WestJet have announced the removal of seat distancing protocol on domestic flights starting July 1.
The Calgary-based airline made the announcement Friday in a release following a review of the International Air Transport Association’s guidance.
Officials said because its flights have HEPA filters installed to clean recirculated air and the air flow in cabins flows from the ceiling to the floor, it did not need the extra barrier.
WestJet added the seat backs also provide protection for passengers.
“WestJet has built a robust framework to ensure Canadians can travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All program. The guidance supports the measures that WestJet has implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19,” the company said in the release.
The airline also helps prevent infection through mandatory temperature checks of all passengers, enhanced cleaning and sanitization of all touch points, modifications to its in-flight service, aircraft fogging and a requirement for guests and crew to wear masks.
“Safety is at the forefront of every decision we make and as our industry adapts to a new normal, we will continue to adjust our health measures to ensure the safest travel experience. This includes spending millions of dollars in cleaning and sanitizing measures, along with personal protective equipment, to ensure the safety and well-being of our guests and our people.”
WestJet’s online booking service is expected to resume regular operations Wednesday.
Air Canada soon followed suit with WestJet’s decision, pledging to end the restriction on seats within the same time frame.
The airline, based in Montreal, also has similar health checks for passengers prior to boarding. A spokesperson said the move is part of its COVID-19 strategy.
“The new measures will continue to build on the recommendations of ICAO (the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization) and others that a multi-layered strategy to COVID-19 safety is most effective,” Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.
Previously, Air Canada blocked the sale of adjacent seats in economy class, and WestJet had done the same throughout the entire plane, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
American Airlines also announced Friday that it will start booking flights to full capacity starting next Wednesday.
(With files from The Canadian Press)
Fed's Bostic reportedly says U.S. recovery may be 'leveling off' – CNBC
Raphael Bostic, president and chief executive officer of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta
Christopher Dilts | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Raphael Bostic said the U.S. economic recovery is in danger of stalling due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases across many American states.
High-frequency data had shown a “leveling off” of economic activity both in terms of business openings and mobility, he told the Financial Times newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.
“There are a couple of things that we are seeing and some of them are troubling and might suggest that the trajectory of this recovery is going to be a bit bumpier than it might otherwise,” he told the newspaper.
“And so we’re watching this very closely, trying to understand exactly what’s happening.”
California, Texas and Florida are all among two dozen U.S. states reporting high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past week, an alarming sign of a virus still spreading largely unchecked throughout much of the country.
The U.S. death toll from the virus has topped 130,000, Reuters calculations show.
Via Rail to lay off 1,000 employees amid coronavirus disruptions – Globalnews.ca
Amid ongoing travel restrictions and concerns about the novel coronavirus, Via Rail is planning 1,000 temporary layoffs, according to an internal email sent to employees on Wednesday afternoon by the railway company’s CEO Cynthia Garneau.
The announcement comes at a time when the national passenger rail company continues to experience service disruptions across most of its regional and national routes, including cancellation of all trains between Montreal and Halifax, and Toronto and Vancouver until at least the beginning of November.
Garneau explained in her email that members of Via Rail’s management could also be affected by layoffs.
The company has cited uncertainty about COVID-19 as a reason for offering reduced booking options on some routes until at least the end of this year.
In her email, Garneau noted that Via Rail had previously reduced and suspended services in March, based on a ridership decrease of more than 95 per cent, and that the company doesn’t anticipate ridership to rebound in the foreseeable future.
“We have had to make difficult decisions to deal with the situation as we gain a better understanding of the impacts of the pandemic on our operations,” she wrote.
Garneau also noted that the company has attempted to mitigate impacts of the pandemic on its workforce by allowing some to work full-time, part-time or to get paid at home while their work was suspended.
“Via Rail is now forced to reconsider its approach in order to further adjust to the increasing financial impacts this crisis has had on the company. Therefore we need to make TEMPORARY layoffs that could affect all types of employees,” she wrote.
“Some measures will also affect management and professional employees. A few scenarios are under consideration and we will get back to you quickly, no later than the end of July.”
She said that the company would be sending 1,000 layoff notices, after giving written notice to unionized employees with Unifor who could exercise displacement rights under their collective agreement.
Via Rail banks survival on high frequency rail project
Global News also obtained a copy of some “key messages” prepared for Via Rail management to deliver to the employees in order to give them notice of the layoffs.
In the suggested messages, management was advised to tell some employees that they would only be temporarily affected and receive 70 per cent of their usual salary “to ensure a rapid return to service even if there is no need for them to be called back to work immediately.”
Garneau’s email and the internal messages both indicated that the layoffs would come into effect on July 24, following a formal notice that is required under the company’s collective agreement with its union.
The news comes at a time when many Canadians are wondering how long job losses and high unemployment rates due to COVID-19 will continue. It also comes amid growing concerns about increased deficits and the government’s ability to provide financial stimulus in the future.
“Via Rail will continue to work on progressing its service resumption plan as the situation evolves with the goal of reintegrating its employees as soon as the customer demand allows it,” Garneau said in her email.
“Until then, your managers are there for you if you have any questions or concerns. We are going to go through this difficult period, and, once passed, I am confident that we will be in a position to reacquaint ourselves with growth and opportunities.”
Global News contacted Via Rail for comment. A spokesperson replied with a statement that confirmed the layoffs along with a summary of the company’s reasons for taking this action.
Via Rail is owned by Canadian taxpayers but operates at arms length from the federal government.
The office of Transport Minister Marc Garneau said in an email that the government would “continue to work with Via Rail to find solutions and support workers and their families in these unprecedented times.”
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Via Rail cutting about 1,000 jobs amid struggles over COVID-19 pandemic – CBC.ca
Via Rail is temporarily laying off approximately 1,000 unionized workers, citing the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on the travel industry.
“Unfortunately, as we don’t anticipate ridership to be back to pre-COVID-19 levels in the foreseeable future, we have had to make difficult decisions to deal with the situation as we gain a better understanding of the impacts of the pandemic on our operations,” CEO Cynthia Garneau said in a statement Wednesday.
The layoffs will take effect on July 24, the Montreal-based company said. Via Rail’s website says it employs more than 3,100 people.
In March, Via Rail halted some routes and extended some previous cancellations in response to the pandemic.
The company had previously temporarily laid off about 1,000 employees in February in response to rail blocklades by demonstrators opposed to construction of the Coastal GasLink pipeline on grounds that it would run through the hereditary land of the Wet’suwet’en people.
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