LOOSEN UP: Air Canada says bookings will improve when restrictions are eliminated

“I hate these online meetings. I hate these virtual meetings,” Air Canada’s chief financial officer Michael Rousseau said yesterday, adding that colleagues and clients, are “eager to interact” in person, and calling the online gatherings “a loss for everybody.”

Rousseau told investors at a virtual National Bank event that, “Bookings will only improve…when the government has started to eliminate restrictions.”

The CFO echoed his boss’s recent call to ease travel restrictions as the airline continues to bleed cash, despite concerns over a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last week, Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu was among more than 130 signatories to an open letter from the travel and tourism industry calling on premiers and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to loosen travel restrictions and roll out targeted quarantines for passengers returning from higher-risk countries.

Leisure travel within Canada has already seen an uptick as interprovincial travel barriers are scaled back, Rousseau said, though several Maritime provinces continue to block province-to-province trips while others discourage them.

He expects domestic business trips to ramp up as early as September, followed by international leisure and business travel, but said the lucrative summer European market is passing the company by this year.

“Summer’s almost past, to some degree. The leisure European markets are summer-based. We’re trying to capture some of that…but that’s probably more into next year,” Rousseau said.

On Tuesday, Trudeau said Canada and the United States will continue to limit non-essential travel between the two countries until at least July 21. Ottawa continues to require passengers returning from abroad to self-isolate for two weeks.

The confirmation came the same day Chinese authorities were re-imposing some travel restrictions in the capital as they work to contain a new coronavirus outbreak and prevent it spreading more widely in a country that previously appeared to have largely contained the disease.

Air Canada predicted last month it would bleed about $20 million per day in the second quarter as border shutdowns continue due to the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting the company to furlough nearly 20,000 employees this month.

The airline does not expect passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2023, Rousseau said.

The number of international air travellers was down 97 percent year over year at the start of this month, with passengers on US flights down by 98 percent on June 7 alone, according to the Canada Border Services Agency.

Source: Travel Industry Today
LOOSEN UP: Air Canada says bookings will improve when restrictions are eliminated

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