Friday,  January 22, 2021  9:14 pm

"We must work quickly": airline industry responds to throne speech

"We must work quickly": airline industry responds to throne speech
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The trade association representing Canada’s largest national and international air carriers has issued a statement in response to Wednesday’s (Sept. 23) throne speech, stressing that the government “must work quickly” in developing a clear plan to support aviation.

The National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC), whose members include Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet, as well as the thousands of Canadians they employ, acknowledged a statement Governor General of Canada Julie Payette read on Wednesday that claimed the Liberals will introduce support for the hardest hit sectors, including travel and tourism.

READ MORELiberals vow to extend wage subsidy to 2021, support travel & tourism

The Liberals' 2020 throne speech (which, notably, pledged to extend the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy program into summer of 2021), did not address the reopening of Canada's borders, lifting travel restrictions or the country's 14-day quarantine protocols.

There was a brief mention of supporting Canada's airline industry, however. 

" further link our communities together, the government will work with partners to support regional routes for airlines. It is essential that Canadians have access to reasonable and affordable regional air services. This is an issue of equity, of jobs, and of economic development," Payette said. "The government will work to support this."

Over the past several months, COVID-19 has had a “devastating impact” on the aviation industry, its employees, and the communities it serves, said the NACC.

The Liberal government's 2020 throne speech was delivered by Governor General of Canada Julie Payette. (CBC)

Canada’s major airlines are the "central piece of the overall air transport and tourism sector," which supports over 630,000 jobs and represents 3.2 per cent of Canada’s GDP, it wrote. 

“The aviation sector needs the government to immediately come forward with a coherent and concrete plan to support the industry and allow its recovery,” the NACC said. 

“Immediate concerns”

The NACC says that since spring, tens of thousands of aviation employees have been let go, impacting families and communities across the country.

“Our industry is operating at approximately 15 per cent capacity,” the association wrote. “According to the most recent government data, passenger numbers are down 94 per cent with aviation still at Stage 0 in its recovery – all the border measures and travel restrictions implemented in March remain in effect.”

They said the government’s plan must address the industry’s “immediate concerns,” including liquidity, and the promotion and development of a rapid testing protocol that can be utilized across the aviation sector, similar to what is already in place in other countries.

READ MORE: 310,000+ letters sent to Ottawa asking for a plan to restart travel, says NACC

Both Air Canada and WestJet, alongside airport partners, have already launched their own COVID-19 trial testing to assist in developing a more robust program.

Additionally, more than 312,000 letters have been sent to Members of Parliament in the past weeks, asking the government to move forward with a responsible restart of travel and tourism. 

“We need to get moving,” it said.

It also noted how Canada’s major trading partners and every major trading nation introduced support for their aviation sector months ago because of the critical role aviation plays in the economic recovery and the need to ensure their aviation sectors remain globally competitive.

Some countries are preparing a second sectoral support plan, it wrote.

“We look forward to working with the government and all political parties, on a clear plan to support aviation,” the association wrote. “But we must work quickly.”

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