Canada’s Major Airlines Respond to Exemption Request made by Flair Airlines
OTTAWA, April 19, 2022 – Suzanne Acton-Gervais, Interim President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents Canada’s largest air carriers (Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet) and John McKenna, President and CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada, which represents Canadian carriers of all categories and flight training organizations, as well as aviation industry product and service suppliers, jointly issued the following statement concerning the exemption request from Flair Airlines to meet the requirements of Canadian ownership under the Canada Transportation Act:
“The competitiveness and stability of Canada’s aviation industry relies on a number of factors – chief among them, the application of statutes and regulations that give Canadian travelers confidence they are receiving service from domestic carriers that have demonstrably proven their Canadian ownership and investment. It is entirely reasonable for Canadians to expect companies to comply with the clear and longstanding rules of the Canada Transportation Act.
It is with this basic principle in mind that Canada’s airlines are calling on the Government of Canada to reject Flair Airlines’ request for an exemption under the Act. If granted, this unprecedented request would allow Flair to continue operating outside the bounds of existing Canadian law, setting a troubling precedent while also threatening consumer confidence in the sector, at a time when the travel industry is working hard to provide a strong and sustainable future for air travel for Canadians.
The Canada Transportation Act maintains important benchmarks for the reliable, longstanding operation and growth of the aviation sector within the country. In Canada, travelers have access to diversified, competitive commercial air travel options. Airlines have worked diligently for decades to ensure the sector remains resilient and offers significantly increased choice for customers, while air fares in Canada have steadily dropped in the last ten years.
By failing to comply with basic, longstanding Canadian ownership and control rules, Flair places considerable uncertainty on the shoulders of travelers, potentially leaving them stranded without a backstop should Flair fail to abide by Canadian ownership and control requirements, as ordered by the Canadian Transportation Agency.
Adherence to existing laws regarding ownership and control-in-fact of major companies that are part of Canada’s critical infrastructure (including airlines) is an important principle to uphold. These laws ensure that companies make a firm commitment to Canada, protecting the industry’s viability, incentivizing growth and new routes, allowing for expansion and building strong networks across the country and globally that collectively make up a strong ecosystem. Domestic control and ownership is not just a “nice to have”, it is a necessary underpinning of the system, and should be defended. It ensures that there is fundamental fairness and protects against one diluted or foreign owned business causing harm to the competitiveness of the whole industry.
At a time when traveler confidence is reviving, and the entire tourism industry is edging toward the beginnings of a post-COVID recovery, it is in the public interest for the Minister of Transport to dismiss this exemption request and require Flair to meet their statutory obligations as prescribed by the Canadian Transportation Agency. Allowing Flair’s continued operation outside of longstanding, clear laws would set a dangerous precedent for those in aviation, business, and most importantly, Canadian consumers. The Government of Canada has an obligation to protect Canadians and uphold its own laws, and the best way it can do this is by ensuring all carriers comply with the applicable statutory obligations.
NACC and ATAC member airlines stand ready to work with the Minister of Transport to mitigate the impacts on travellers and workers, including by offering alternatives and options as a result of the Canadian Transportation Agency’s investigation into Flair, or the Government of Canada’s denial of this exemption request. We commit to working with the government to ensure that the public interest remains top of mind for law-abiding air carriers.”
About the National Airlines Council of Canada:
The National Airlines Council of Canada represents Canada’s largest national and international passenger air carriers: Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet. It promotes safe, sustainable and competitive air travel by advocating for the development of policies, regulations and legislation to foster a world-class transportation system. Prepandemic our members collectively carried over 80 million passengers annually, directly employed over 60,000 people and served as a critical component of Canada’s overall air transport and tourism sector, which supported more than 630,000 jobs.
About the Air Transport Association of Canada
The Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) serves as Canada’s national trade association for the commercial aviation representing Canadian carriers of all categories and flight training organizations, as well as aviation industry product and service supplier. ATAC is recognized as a strong advocacy organization that successfully supports its members in their pursuit of a safe, world-class and sustainable Canadian air transport industry.
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For ATAC media requests, please contact John McKenna, President and CEO, Air Transport Association of Canada: [email protected], 613-301-3969