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Air Canada Asks Government To Ease Travel Restrictions After Reporting Q1 Losses Of $1.3B

Michael Rousseau asks the Canadian government to remove hotel quarantines in his first quarterly conference call since becoming CEO of Air Canada, stating that “The current mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals has proven ineffective. It should be eliminated.” Air Canada recently reported a first-quarter loss of $1.3 billion. Rousseau went on to say that, “We believe that with a vaccination program now underway nationally, a modified and more relevant approach to testing and quarantine would keep Canadians safe while allowing our country to reopen for international travel.”

In a press release announcing its first quarter losses, Rousseau stated that “The persistence of COVID-19 and its resurgence in Canada are weighing heavily on the Canadian airline industry, as reflected in Air Canada’s first quarter results. Still, through the hard work and dedication of our employees, we are operating a limited schedule for necessary travel and to ship essential cargo. I thank our employees for their professionalism and assure them, as well as our investors and all stakeholders, that better times lie ahead for our airline.”  

Canada currently has some of the strictest travel regulations in the world, with international air travelers facing a mandatory 3-day hotel stay, as well as a 14-day quarantine.

The press releases reports that operating revenues in the first quarter of 2021 were $729 million, a decline of $2.993 billion or 80 per cent from the first quarter of 2020. “During the quarter, Air Canada’s cash burn rate progressively improved, albeit moderately given the ongoing impact of the pandemic on advance ticket sales. Air Canada had almost $6.6 billion in liquidity at the quarter’s end and we subsequently finalized a financial package with the Government of Canada (primarily comprised of repayable loans) to provide access of up to $5.9 billion more in liquidity. Beyond serving as a layer of insurance, this makes available, if required, the resources necessary to rebuild and compete in the post-pandemic world.

“We continue to pursue other revenue opportunities. Air Canada Cargo has now completed more than 7,500 all-cargo flights since March of last year. We are building our transformed Aeroplan program, establishing a well-received partnership with Starbucks in Canada. We also maintained our focus on customers and employees, becoming the first carrier in Canada to be awarded APEX’s Diamond Status for our COVID-19 Air Canada CleanCare+ biosafety program and we were named one of Montreal’s Top Employers for the eighth time and one of Canada’s Best Diversity Employers for the sixth consecutive year. Continuing on our commitment to sustainability, we now aim to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. To reach this, we have set absolute midterm GHG net reduction targets by 2030 in our air and ground operations compared to our 2019 baseline, and have committed to investing $50 Million in Sustainable Aviation Fuel, and carbon reductions and removals,” said Mr. Rousseau.

“With these and other measures, Air Canada is poised to emerge strongly from the pandemic. It is now essential that governments communicate and implement a reopening plan for our country; recognizing that a healthy aviation sector is vital to Canada’s economic recovery. Starting with replacing blanket restrictions with science-based testing and limited quarantine measures where appropriate, Canada can reopen and safely ease travel restrictions as vaccination programs roll out. We have seen elsewhere, notably in the U.S., that travel rebounds sharply as COVID-19 recedes and restrictions are lifted, and we fully expect this can be replicated in Canada,” concluded Mr. Rousseau.

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