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Looming Air Canada cuts cause concern for Regina Airport Authority

With looming Air Canada cuts, Regina Aiport Authority can't help but be concerned about its operations moving forward as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Derek Putz / Global News

Regina Airport Authority president and CEO James Bogusz describes Air Canada’s plan to slash about 1,700 jobs as “concerning.”

Air Canada announced Wednesday it would be cutting its capacity by 25 per cent across the country.

“People listen to the travel advice as they should, “Bogusz said. “The problem is, it devastates the industry. There’s no immediate impact (in Regina), but just at a macro level, it’s very concerning.”

Read more: Air Canada to cut approximately 1,700 jobs

Air Canada has already pulled out flights in several Canadian provinces including Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

“We’re (Regina) already down to, in some days, three flights, four flight, five flights. I mean, we don’t have much left,” Bogusz said.

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“I’m not anticipating Air Canada to pull out of Regina altogether, but we have to consider that this time of year we would normally be at 25 to 27 flights.

“This is getting to the point in the Canadian aviation system where there’s just not as much happening and where airlines, for business reasons, are having to pull out of many cities across our country.”

Read more: ‘Catastrophic reduction’: Regina airport grapples with financial challenges, reduced travel demand

Lucie Guillemette, Air Canada’s executive vice-president, said the cuts reflect the enhanced travel rules, “in addition to the existing quarantine requirements,” and have had an “immediate impact” on bookings.

“(We) have made the difficult but necessary decision to further adjust our schedule and rationalize our transborder, Caribbean and domestic routes to better reflect expected demand and to reduce cash burn,” Guillemette said in a statement.

Bogusz said he expects things to eventually recover, but with the current policies in place in terms of health protocols and without significant financial help from the federal government, it’s been tough to see things in a positive light.

WestJet announced it would reduce its workforce capacity by 1,000 employees in an attempt to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic on Friday.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about WestJet’s cuts last week and pointed out the $1.5 billion in aid for the aviation industry through the federal wage subsidy and other relief measures.

Read more: WestJet slashing jobs, cutting 100s of flights amid coronavirus restrictions

Trudeau said there are ongoing discussions regarding industry-specific support packages, but that is contingent on carriers providing refunds to passengers whose flights were cancelled.

“People shouldn’t be travelling, and that of course is a direct challenge for the airline industry to manage through,” Trudeau told reporters in Ottawa.

“At the same time we’ve made it very clear that we expect people to be reimbursed (for cancelled flights), we expect regional routes to be protected… We expect certain things from the airline industry.”

Bogusz mentioned he would like to see rapid testing introduced for travellers, something currently being pushed by airports and airlines.

“If we lose the summer in terms of not having Canadians travel within our own country, it’s going to be worse than we had in 2020 because you can’t have two years in a row where nobody’s making any money,” Bogusz said.

Read more: COVID-19: What does the future of Canada’s airline industry look like?

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The Regina airport dropped down to just 15 per cent of its usual passenger traffic in December.

All of 2020 saw about 30 per cent of the airport’s normal levels, according to Bogusz.

— With files from Global News’ Rachael D’Amore, Katie Dangerfield, Allison Bamford and The Canadian Press.

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Regina airport grapples with financial challenges, reduced travel demand – Jan 9, 2021