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Canada's major airlines welcome new transport minister amid industry headwinds

Last Updated Jan 12, 2021 at 11:01 am MST

Air Canada is again urging the government to ease COVID-19 travel restrictions, this time by adopting a "science-based approach" that would open travel to countries with low risks of infection. A traveler walks between check-in kiosks at Toronto's Pearson International Airport for a "Healthy Airport" during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

OTTAWA — Canada’s airlines welcomed the appointment of Omar Alghabra as the new federal minister of transport today in a statement that emphasized the industry’s continued challenges.

Mike McNaney, president and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada, which represents the country’s major carriers, said the group is looking forward to working with Alghabra on restarting aviation and rolling out a national COVID-19 testing strategy for air travel.

The cabinet shuffle comes amid tense relations between the government and Canada’s airlines, which have repeatedly criticized Ottawa’s response to the pandemic.

In particular, the government has held off on providing airlines with a major aid package, despite the industry’s calls for targeted financial assistance, and refused to reduce the mandatory 14-day quarantine for international travellers.

Last week, WestJet said that 1,000 of its workers would be furloughed, temporarily laid off, put on unpaid leave or have their hours cut, blaming Ottawa’s response to the pandemic for the measures.

Marc Garneau, the outgoing transport minister, will remain in the federal cabinet, serving as minister of foreign affairs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2021.

The Canadian Press