International Air Transport Association (IATA) head Willie Walsh didn’t mince words when speaking to reporters Wednesday about Canada’s air travel restrictions and their effect on the industry as a whole.
He told media that global airlines are getting impatient to see Canada end the U.S. border closure for all non-essential travel – and that every day of delay is costing the embattled industry.
His comments come as Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week that the U.S. agreed to extend the mutual ban on non-essential border crossings by 30 days until at least 21JUN. On its part, the U.S. reports that discussions with Canada and Mexico failed to come to an agreement on ending travel restrictions between the three countries — which include mandatory COVID-19 testing and hotel quarantine for air passengers arriving in Canada.
“I’m disappointed” that the Canada-U.S. border remains closed,” the Montreal Gazette notes IATA’s Walsh saying.
“Our official head office is in Montreal and we’re still not able to travel there. I would hope that the Canadian government will start looking at a more sensible regime.”
While IATA officials have been taking part in talks aimed at relaxing the measures, progress has been slow, senior vice-president Nick Careen said, with most of the pressure coming from the U.S. government. Careen is a former Air Canada executive who oversees airport, passenger, cargo and security operations at IATA.
“We’ve been asking since the latter part of last year for some sort of roadmap in terms of what it would look like to restart, because it just doesn’t happen overnight,” he added.
“I feel really sorry for the Canadian airlines who have been hammered by the restrictions that the government has introduced,” said Walsh.
“The government, although they’ve now come to support the industry, they’ve been very, very slow to support the industry in Canada if you compare it to the speed at which the U.S. moved to support the U.S. industry. That’s to be commended. We didn’t see similar behaviour in Canada, and that clearly has put Canadian carriers in a difficult position. Hopefully we’ll see that change.”
Walsh cites progress with vaccinations and blames continued government restrictions on international travel for the financial crisis facing airlines around the world – and in Canada.
“We’re optimistic that once those restrictions are relaxed, or indeed removed, we will see a swift bounce-back in terms of demand,” he said. “The immediate challenge is to reopen borders, eliminate quarantine measures and digitally manage vaccination and testing certificates.”