TORONTO — Unifor president Jerry Dias says the price tag for the federal government’s financial assistance package for Canada’s airlines could top $9 billion.
In an interview with the CBC, the union boss said the package isn’t so much a bailout as a loan. The original figure was around $7 billion, which Dias suggested “is now the floor, not the ceiling.” The idea is that the airlines will pay the money back at 1% interest over 10 years.
The day before Dias gave an interview to the Star where he said that Air Canada has agreed to offer refunds for travellers out-of-pocket as a result of COVID-19 cancellations, as part of the bailout conditions.
Refunds have been one of the biggest conditions of the financial assistance package, announced Nov. 8, 2020 by then-Transport Minister Marc Garneau. Air Canada has already paid out more than $1 billion in refundable tickets since the start of 2020.
Travel agents face up to $200 million in commission recalls if mass refunds from Canada’s airlines proceed. In its talks with the Ministry of Finance, ACTA is asking that any federal government bailout of the airline industry include additional funds to cover recalled travel agent commissions, with a condition that travel agency commission on airline and tour packages can’t be recalled; and for the establishment of a fund to cover past bookings already recalled.
In the Star interview Dias said the agreement is close to being finalized, backing up past reports in the Globe and Mail. Dias told the Star: “I know that they’re very close. Based on the conversations I’ve had with the government and industry, I had already expected an announcement by now.”