On Friday, Air Canada’s president and CEO Calin Rovinescu reported unprecedented revenue losses and urged the easing of coronavirus travel restrictions. He suggested that the losses were the result of Canada’s “devastating and unprecedented…COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed travel and border restrictions and quarantine requirements.” Rovinescu went on to note that “…Canada’s federal and inter-provincial restrictions have been among the most severe in the world.”
In its latest quarterly earnings, Air Canada reported a net loss of $1.752 billion. The carrier stated that global Covid-19 pandemic travel bans have decimated the travel industry. Canada’s major airline has laid off thousands of workers and cut seat capacity by more than 90 per cent. According to Rovinescu, total revenue for Air Canada declined by 89 per cent over the second quarter.
In a press release, Rovinescu stated that “As with many other major airlines worldwide, Air Canada’s second quarter results confirm the devastating and unprecedented effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and government-imposed travel and border restrictions and quarantine requirements. Canada’s federal and inter-provincial restrictions have been among the most severe in the world, effectively shutting down most commercial aviation in our country, which, together with otherwise fragile demand, resulted in Air Canada carrying less than four per cent of the passengers carried during last year’s second quarter. In the face of such an impossible operating environment, I am extremely proud of the outstanding efforts our team is making, doing everything possible to successfully navigate this crisis, leveraging our strong balance sheet and the many other assets we developed or acquired over the last decade.”
Rovinescu went on to underscore that the devastating losses should highlight “…the tremendous urgency for governments in Canada to take reasonable steps to safely reopen our country and restore economic activity.”
Air Canada has repeatedly asked the Canadian government to relax its strict travel restraints. On July 15, 2020, the carrier issued a letter that urged the government to consider what the company described as a “science-based approach” to easing travel. The airline underscored that Canada’s travel restrictions have been unchanged since March and suggested the government should seek new ways to support travellers and the Canadian economy without adversely impacting public health.
The letter encourages “…the easing of the blanket travel restrictions and quarantines with a view to replacing them with more proportionate, evidence-based measures that can achieve public health objectives, while causing less detriment to other public interests and allowing for a measured restart of aviation, similar to what is occurring in other countries.”
The letter goes on to emphasize the need for urgency “…the situation is becoming increasingly urgent. Canada has made virtually no change to its quarantine restrictions since mid-March, despite continuing improvements containing the spread of the virus both in our country and in many others. This is severely impacting Air Canada, our customers and employees as well as an overall recovery. Moreover, there are many other interests affected by the quarantine restrictions – not only jobs and pensions, but also the social and economic well being of individuals and communities that rely on air travel, as well as basic freedoms of mobility. Business and labour leaders alike have implored the Government to act on easing these restrictions in order to strike a better balance, without adversely impacting public health.”
The airline notes that they do not endorse opening the border to the US but rather suggest that Canada should adopt less restrictive measures, such as those currently being used in Europe and other countries. “Air Canada is not proposing relaxing the U.S. border restrictions at this time – only to replace the quarantine requirements for those countries with a low COVID-19 risk from a public health perspective with more proportionate, evidence-based measures and experiences from other countries.
Air Canada notes that other G20 countries have implemented practical, evidence-based approaches to travel by minimizing the risk of COVID-19 exposure through a range of measures endorsed by medical professionals worldwide including:
- Determination of safe corridors or travel between approved jurisdictions with fewer cases on the basis of low risk from a public health perspective (an approach adopted in the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal among others)
- Requirement for a pre-departure, medically certified negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the country (Caribbean islands)
- Waiver of quarantine requirements following a negative test on arrival (Iceland, Austria, Luxembourg)
- Mandatory testing on arrival (South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao, United Arab Emirates).”
Thus far there has been no direct response from the government about possible changes to Canada’s coronavirus travel bans and quarantine orders.