Top ex­ecs join push to re­lax air travel re­stric­tions

Calgary Herald - - FP CALGARY - DANIELLE BOCHOVE

The heads of 27 Cana­dian com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing the CEOS of two large banks and Brook­field As­set Man­age­ment Inc., are urg­ing Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and pro­vin­cial pre­miers to ease air travel re­stric­tions.

Most in­ter­na­tional flights have been can­celled and the U.s.-canada bor­der has been shut to most trav­ellers since March 21 — a pol­icy that was ex­tended to July 21.

Last week, Air Canada chief ex­ec­u­tive Calin Rovi­nescu called the re­stric­tions “dis­pro­por­tion­ate” as the coro­n­avirus out­break im­proves in most parts of Canada.

Now Rovi­nescu has the back­ing of the CEOS of nine com­pa­nies in the S&P/TSX 60, who are among the 27 sig­na­to­ries to a let­ter pub­lished in Canada’s Globe and Mail news­pa­per on Thurs­day.

“We are now en­ter­ing a new phase, one in which we must find a re­spon­si­ble way to co-ex­ist with COVID-19 un­til there is a vac­cine. This in­cludes pru­dently and thought­fully open­ing avi­a­tion and lift­ing re­stric­tions to safely re­sume travel through­out all prov­inces of Canada, as well as from se­lect coun­tries,” the ex­ec­u­tives wrote.

Sig­na­to­ries in­clude top ex­ec­u­tives from:

Banks: Royal Bank of Canada and Bank of Nova Sco­tia;

■ Com­mu­ni­ca­tions: BCE, Telus and Rogers Com­mu­ni­ca­tions;

■ En­ergy: En­bridge, Transalta and Husky;

■ Avi­a­tion: Air Canada, West­jet and Porter Trans­porta­tion: Cana­dian Na­tional Rail­way;

■ Man­u­fac­tur­ing: Magna In­ter­na­tional, Li­na­mar As­set Man­age­ment: Brook­field, Fair­fax Fi­nan­cial.

Canada has seen a re­duc­tion of new cases and deaths from COVID-19 in re­cent weeks as it quells an out­break in its two largest cities that has claimed thou­sands of lives. The coun­try had more than 100,000 virus cases and 8,254 deaths as of Wed­nes­day even­ing. Pol­icy-mak­ers in Canada have also been watch­ing the rise in cases in sev­eral large U.S. states as they weigh a loos­en­ing of travel rules.

Air travel is “crit­i­cal for the en­tire Cana­dian econ­omy,” the ex­ec­u­tives wrote. “In ad­di­tion to the hu­man tragedy re­sult­ing from the virus, the eco­nomic im­pact has also been un­prece­dented.”

Mike Mc­naney, CEO of the Na­tional Air­lines Coun­cil of Canada, said the coun­try should fol­low the move of other re­gions like the Euro­pean Union, which has al­lowed travel be­tween mem­ber states.

The EU is also tar­get­ing in­bound travel next month from other ju­ris­dic­tions that have flat­tened the virus curve and are fol­low­ing new travel pro­to­cols, Mc­naney said.

Travel be­tween the U.S. and Canada should also be con­sid­ered on a tar­geted ba­sis, Mc­naney said on BNN Bloomberg TV. The air­line in­dus­try has worked hard to make flying as safe and com­fort­able as pos­si­ble, he said. Pas­sen­gers will see masks, health ques­tion­naires and tem­per­a­ture checks at air­ports.

Con­trary to pop­u­lar be­lief, the air in cab­ins is not stag­nant but recycled ev­ery sev­eral min­utes with a hospi­tal-grade air fil­ter that cap­tures 99 per cent of im­pu­ri­ties, Mc­naney added.

COLE BURSTON/BLOOMBERG FILES

CEOS of nine ma­jor com­pa­nies are among 27 top ex­ec­u­tives who are urg­ing the government to lift re­stric­tions for air travel through­out Canada and se­lect coun­tries. So­cial dis­tanc­ing mark­ers are seen at the largely empty Toronto Pear­son In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

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