Air Canada says that there has been “no update” since its Feb. 12 earnings release which “clearly says that discussions are ongoing and that is still the case. There is nothing new since we issued this release.”
The carrier’s comment came following multiple media reports that said that Air Canada had agreed to the carrier had agreed to provide refunds to travellers who had flights cancelled due to the pandemic as part of a possible federal government financial support package.
In its Feb. 12 release, the carrier stated: “In the fourth quarter of 2020, the Canadian government announced that it was developing a package of assistance to Canadian airlines, airports and the aerospace sector and indicated that any assistance provided as part of such package would (i) include strict conditions to protect Canadians and the public interest, (ii) require airlines to provide ticket refunds for flights postponed or cancelled in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, and (iii) ensure Canadians and regional communities retain air connections within Canada.”
It goes on to say that: “Unlike in many other countries, including the United States, the Canadian government has not provided any financial assistance or other relief specifically for Canadian airlines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the United States, through several initiatives under the CARES program, has provided the U.S. industry approximately US$65 billion in support through various loans, grants and other programs, which most of the U.S. airlines have accessed.”
And it concluded, stating that: “Air Canada is encouraged with the constructive nature of discussions that it has had with representatives of the Canadian government with a view to securing financial support to help ensure the competitiveness of Air Canada and the Canadian airline industry and which, if successful, would be expected to take into account the above policy considerations set out by the Canadian government. While discussions are advancing, there can be no assurance that such discussions will lead to the completion of definitive agreements with the Government of Canada on sector financial support on terms acceptable to Air Canada.”
Talks between the federal government and Canada’s airlines on the financial support package are still ongoing.
However, the federal government has made it clear that its priorities for such a package include:
- Refunding Canadians for cancelled flights
- Retaining and reinstating regional routes in Canada
- Protecting jobs across the air sector
Where travel agency commissions fit in these discussions remains to be seen, but the government has indicated that it is committed to supporting small businesses, like travel agencies, and ACTA and other retail travel groups have been lobbying hard to ensure that agency commissions are protected.