Travel and Airline Industries Go From Bad to Worse: Trudeau Travel News Reaction

Critics say new travel restrictions for Canada put the country’s aviation industry in an even worse position than before. The new rules also is terrible news for an already struggling Caribbean tourism sector.

“The Jamaica Tourist Board was disappointed by the Canadian government’s announcement regarding new restrictions on international travel,” the JTB told TravelPulse Canada. “Canada is Jamaica’s second largest source market for international travel and the cancellation of flights into the Caribbean until April 30 will undoubtedly impact the country’s tourism industry during the peak winter travel season.


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“From the outset of the pandemic, Jamaica has been a global leader in managing and mitigating the spread of COVID-19. The Ministry of Health has implemented stringent protocols to protect local residents while providing travellers with a safe, seamless and enjoyable experience. Jamaica’s tourism industry remains resilient and optimistic and we look forward to hosting Canadian travellers on the island once again when airlift resumes this spring.”

Unifor, which represents airline workers across Canada, said Ottawa needs to follow through with long-awaited support for airlines to avoid having the industry collapse.

“You can’t have one without the other,” said Unifor president Jerry Dias “Further travel restrictions without providing financial support for airline workers is a risk to the very future of Canada’s airline industry.”

The Canadian government on Friday of last week announced that Canada’s four major carriers would cease operating to the Caribbean and Mexico from January 31 to April 30. The government also is bringing in tough new rules on testing and quarantines.

The Canadian Airlines Council was blunt in its criticism of the new rules.

“With the new travel restrictions announced today by the prime minster, the Canadian air sector has been plunged into its most severe crisis since March 2020,’ CAC president Daniel-Robert Gooch said in a statement. “Additional measures may be warranted, but Canada’s airports say the federal and provincial governments should be working more closely with industry on health measures. Meanwhile, the federal government must become more actively engaged on the financial situation affecting the air sector, if Canada hopes to emerge from this prolonged crisis with a functioning national air transportation system.

“For the past 10 months, Canada’s airports have kept passengers and workers safe, maintained operational capabilities and served their communities,” Gooch said. “With demand down by 85 to 90 per cent since the spring, they have done so by burning through any cash reserves, cancelling projects, laying off staff, and assuming $2.8 billion in additional debt by the end of 2021, just to keep their doors open. Today, there is nothing left to cut, yet the restrictions keep piling on.”

Blue seats in empty airplane
Empty seats on an airplane.

Since April, demand for international travel has been about five per cent of where it was in 2019. In other words, for every hundred Canadians who travelled in 2019, only five have been travelling since the pandemic began, the CAC said.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the air sector sought to be an active partner in governments’ efforts to contain the virus. We are proud of what we accomplished to keep travellers safe from the earliest days, even before measures were mandated by governments.” said Gooch. “Airports are at the ready to support the government through a collaborative approach and share our decades of experience on how to manage risk at our airports and on aircraft, but we are learning of proposed measures through media leaks and press conferences, which is too late for us to make a positive contribution.”

“The first priority of Canada’s airports is to ensure that our approach to quarantines and testing is risk-based, nationally consistent, and aligned with what the rest of the world is doing successfully. Even before today’s measures, air travellers were subject to temperature checks, pre-departure PCR tests, a 14-day quarantine for most travellers, and airports and airlines were seeking to work with the federal government on a standard approach to arrivals testing. Today’s news adds additional rules and processes that exceed measures in place for those already in the community who have tested positive for COVID-19.

“The second and equally urgent priority is to move forward quickly with the financial relief measures announced in the federal Fall Economic Statement and for the federal government to be prepared to provide additional support as this rapidly evolving situation demands. Canada’s airports welcome comments from Minister of Transport Omar Alghagra that financial support for our air carrier partners is coming, and look forward to engaging directly with the minister on what is needed to further support airports.

Canada’s air sector will have an important role to play in the recovery of Canada’s tourism sector and our trade based economy, but the industry has widespread concerns about its ability to participate in this recovery without more active and meaningful federal support, the group said.

“The industry’s outlook for 2021 is now dramatically worse than it was even a month ago,” Gooch concluded. “There is an urgent need for the government to work with industry in the coming weeks on a plan to emerge from the pandemic and methodically and safely start to remove travel restrictions when the time is right.”

“Today’s announcement really was the nail in the coffin for the airline and tourism business,” Robert Kokonis, founder and managing director of aviation consulting firm AirTrav Inc., told Global News. “We’re going to see bankruptcy filings, you might even see a few outright failures.”

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