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Air Canada to pause Rouge operations, cut 80 employees amid new COVID-19 travel rules

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canadian airlines have suspended flights to ‘all Caribbean destinations and Mexico’' Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canadian airlines have suspended flights to ‘all Caribbean destinations and Mexico’
WATCH: Coronavirus: Trudeau says Canadian airlines have suspended flights to 'all Caribbean destinations and Mexico' – Jan 29, 2021

Air Canada is pausing its Rouge operations as a result of new travel restrictions put in place by the federal government in an effort to get ahead of new variants of the novel coronavirus.

“As a result of our suspension of all flights to the Caribbean and Mexico at the request of the Canadian government, we are again pausing our Rouge operations effective Feb 8 as these flights are primarily operated by Rouge,” the Canadian airliner said in an emailed statement to Global News.

Around 80 employees are expected to be laid off after the final flight.

Read more: Travellers to pay ‘more than $2K’ for new mandatory COVID-19 hotel quarantine, Trudeau says

Air Canada Rouge is a low-cost airline and subsidiary of Air Canada that had expanded its flights to offer more vacation destinations. It was suspended last year, but restarted in November of 2020 in anticipation of the winter travel season.

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The news comes just days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada would be cracking down on non-essential travel.

At the request of the federal government, Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat all agreed to cancel air services to Caribbean destinations and Mexico.

The new rules include mandatory PCR-testing upon arrival that will require international travellers to spend more than $2,000 to quarantine in a government-approved hotel while they await their results.

They were enforced in addition to another federal measure that requires travellers to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of their time of departure.

The travel restrictions were also aimed at discouraging people from flying after a statistics provided to Global News by the Canada Border Services Agency found 6.3 million travellers had entered Canada since March and did not have to complete a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Click to play video: 'Growing calls for stricter air travel measures in Canada' Growing calls for stricter air travel measures in Canada
Growing calls for stricter air travel measures in Canada – Jan 26, 2021

“With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” Trudeau said Friday.

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“By putting in place these tough measures now, we can look forward to a better time, when we can all plan those vacations.”

He added the cancellations are expected to continue until April 30.

Canada’s aviation industry has been hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with airports blowing through cash reserves as the demand for flights fell between 85 and 90 per cent last spring.

Unifor National President Jerry Dias called the latest spate of restrictions “a death blow” to the aviation sector in a previous interview with Global News, and slammed the federal government for doing “nothing” to help out Canadian airlines.

“Everybody understands that governments need to do everything they can to keep Canadians safe, but we also have to make sure that we have industries to come back to when the pandemic is over,” he said.

More to come… 

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