TORONTO — Now that Air Canada and the federal government have announced their financing deal, many are wondering where negotiations stand with Canada’s other airlines, including WestJet, Transat and Sunwing.
When she announced the deal last night, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland was asked about the status of talks with other carriers.
“I’m confident this agreement sets a standard,” said Freeland.
This morning Transat told Travelweek that the Air Canada announcement is a step in the right direction for the industry amid the pandemic.
“Yesterday’s announcement is a positive sign,” Transat spokesperson Debbie Cabana told Travelweek.
Cabana added: “As we said previously, our discussions are very advanced, and we trust that the government will have a fair approach towards all industry players, so this makes us even more confident that we will also receive help in the coming weeks.”
The Air Canada agreement includes access to loans worth up to $5.9 billion through the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) program, with loans paid back over 5 – 7 years.
In February 2021 Sunwing secured $375 million in loans from the same LEEFF program. LEEFF loans provide bridge financing to Canada’s largest employers whose needs during the pandemic are not being met through private market financing.
When Sunwing’s LEEFF loan was announced, Sunwing said it agreed to maintain an account with money received from customers for travel that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The account has been maintained while the government’s discussions with the airline industry around financial assistance are ongoing.
Travelweek also received this feedback from Sunwing spokesperson Melanie Filipp:
“We are aware that Air Canada has reached an agreement with the federal government that addresses customer refunds for cancelled travel amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While they are the first Canadian airline to reach an agreement with the government on the issue of customer refunds, we look forward to continuing discussions with the government and appreciate the attention that senior Government of Canada officials have paid to the specific challenges faced by the aviation sector,” said Filipp.
She added: “In the meantime, Sunwing will continue to maintain a separate account with money received from customers with non-refundable tickets that could not travel due to the pandemic. This account will remain protected until the government’s broader discussions with the airline industry conclude and a policy is established for the treatment of these prepaid amounts.”
Meanwhile WestJet has confirmed that its discussions with the government continue as well. Minutes after Freeland and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra finished their live briefing last night, WestJet sent out the following statement:
“The WestJet Group continues to operate self-sufficiently with the exception of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS), which flows through directly to our employees. We have already communicated we will restore service to all 42 airports that we served pre-COVID and did so at our earliest opportunity. Since October 2020, WestJet’s refund policy has been industry-leading in Canada, and consistent with the U.S., UK and EU.
“We remain committed to building back even stronger for the betterment of all Canadians. A healthy WestJet will help lead a stronger recovery, increasing competition and consumer choice while lowering the cost of travel for Canadians, all while anchoring Canada’s vital air travel and tourism sectors.
“The WestJet Group of Companies continues discussions with the Government of Canada on a safe travel-restart framework. We remain focused on a long-term solution that will serve the best interests of Canadians.
“We will provide updates on our discussions with the Government of Canada at the appropriate time.”