Early this year, WestJet kicked off their 2021 with a 1000-employee workforce reduction and route slashing, and Air Canada has now followed suit with their own announcement.
According to an article in Sky News: “Air Canada will cut its capacity by 25% in the first quarter of the year, resulting in the loss of around 1,700 jobs. The airline said its capacity in the first three months of 2021 will be about 20% of what it was over the same three months in 2019.”
In mid-January 2021, Perrin Beatty, President & CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, issued a statement about airline service reductions, renewing the call for the federal government to provide targeted financial support for the hardest hit sectors, including the beleaguered — and federally-regulated — travel industry.
In their disappointing announcements, both airlines referred to confusion around the Canadian government’s new restrictions which came into effect as of Jan.7 in which all travellers aged 5 and up require a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test result. The PCR test is the standard nose swab test for detecting active COVID-19 infections, and these restrictions dictate that it must be taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure. Travellers must present documentation of a negative test results before they board an international flight bound for Canada, and must still complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Canada.
Speaking to the Canadian Press, chief executive Mike McNaney of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s largest airlines, said the transport department had not provided a list of foreign agencies whose tests are acceptable – nor did the department outline the criteria for employees to determine whether a document detailing such a test is valid. The Council warned of major issues, including what options passengers have if their jurisdiction does not offer the kind of test the government accepts.
According to federal Transport Minister Marc Garneau, passengers have two options if they cannot present a negative result: “One is, if they haven’t got the test result and there are clinics available, they will have to reschedule their departure because they won’t be allowed on board. If, on the other hand, they can demonstrate … that there was no facility, then they can be admitted onboard.” Travellers who can prove that they were unable to get a test abroad will have to quarantine for 14 days at a federally-approved facility upon their arrival.
In their announcement of further workforce reductions, Air Canada says that these new restrictions have had an immediate impact on bookings. With vaccinations now underway in Canada, the company says it is looking forward to being able to start bringing back some of their 20,000 employees currently on furlough and lay-off.
To read the Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s statement, click here.
For details about Canadian airline industry announcements and the Government of Canada air travel restrictions:
- Government of Canada announcement: click here.
- Travelling to Canada: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/wizard-start