Trudeau non-committal on airline bailout

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Ottawa, May 17 2020 - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he plans to keep working with airlines hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic but wouldn't address whether a bailout of the beleaguered industry was on the table.

"We're going to continue to work with sectors and industries to try and support them as they get through this pandemic," CBC Canada quoted Trudeau as saying on Saturday, referencing the federal government's offer of bridge financing for large employers to keep workers on the payroll.

"It is not a bailout, it is a loan that is going to help (businesses)... But we are still working with companies to see who is taking that up and how the format of it will be worked out."

Trudeau acknowledged that the crisis was particularly difficult for companies tied to the travel and tourism industries.

"I think we all know that this pandemic has hit extremely hard on travel industries and on the airlines particularly," he said.

"That's why we're going to keep working with airlines, including Air Canada, to see how we can help even more than we have with the wage subsidy."

His comments came a day after flag carrier Air Canada revealed it was preparing to slash its workforce by at least half, CBC Canada reported.

In a memo sent to staff Friday, the country's largest airline said it expects to lay off "approximately 50 to 60 per cent" of the company's 38,000 employees in an effort to rebuild after the crisis.

"COVID-19 has forced us to reduce our schedule by 95 per cent and, based on every indicator we have, our normal traffic levels will not be returning anytime soon," the company said in the memo.

"Our current workforce supports an operation transporting 51 million customers a year with 1,500 flights a day and 258 aircraft. With current realities, this is simply not sustainable going forward."

IANS