CALGARY — Onerous restrictions and costs are hindering Air Canada’s ability to expand and compete internationally, the airline’s CEO said Wednesday.
Calin Rovinescu said Canada’s airport fees are too high and legacy legislation from when the company was government-owned means it’s operating at a disadvantage.
“We need to have the same ability to compete, the same level playing field that everyone else has,” said Rovinescu at a Calgary Chamber event.
He said he hoped Bill C-10 will come into force soon so the company will have fewer restrictions on where it conducts airline maintenance. The legislation would lift requirements on the number of maintenance employees in Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario and how much work is done in those provinces.
The labour restrictions were part of the privatization measures of Air Canada 28 years ago, which Rovinescu said are outdated.
“It’s somewhat preposterous that we would have a duty to perhaps be uncompetitive, or potentially uncompetitive, in one aspect of our business by being required to do maintenance in certain places,” he said.
The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union has opposed the legislation, saying it will mean Air Canada will be under no obligation to do any maintenance work in Canada.
On boosting Canada as an international transit hub, Rovinescu said the government needs to lower its fees, with Air Canada paying $802 million in airport and navigation fees last year.
“We shouldn’t have a cost disadvantage to connect passengers over Canada as opposed to over other destinations,” he said.
He hopes visa restrictions for tourists passing through Canada would also be lifted to make it easier to create international transit hubs in the country.
His comments come as Air Canada makes a major foreign expansion push, with about 90% of its capacity increase to come from international markets this year.