(Air Canada)

After announcing that they would be gradually decreasing international flights to just a handful of routes, Air Canada will now be laying off over 5,100 employees.

A message posted by the Air Canada Component of CUPE confirms that the layoffs will take place over the next 48 hours.

3,600 employees working for Air Canada’s main carrier and 1,549 who work for Air Canada Rouge will be placed on “Off Duty Status”.

These measures will allow laid off employees to collect employment insurance and maintain benefits, along with travel benefits.

“This is unprecedented, and not something any of us want to go through. The reality is real, and we are working around the clock ensuring you are represented,” reads the statement from union staff.

The announcement comes as Air Canada stated their intention to reduce international flights to just six destinations London, Paris, Frankfurt, Delhi, Tokyo and Hong Kong from April 1 until at least April 30. This will reduce its international network from 101 airports to six.

From April 1st, Air Canada will also reduce its U.S.-Canada network from 53 airports to 13, subject to further reductions based on demand or government edicts.

According to CUPE, this signals an overall reduction in capacity of at least 80% in April 2020, and further reductions for May are likely.

“The restrictions on travel imposed by governments worldwide, while understandable, are nonetheless having a cataclysmic effect upon the global airline industry,” said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive of Air Canada.

“We are exploring with the Government of Canada possibilities to maintain essential operations to enable as many Canadians as possible to return to Canada, and to support other vital transport needs, including the shipment of goods and cargo during the crisis as required in any state of emergency.”

On Monday, WestJet announced the cancellation of all international and transborder flights, including those to the U.S., for the next 30 days to help control the spread of novel coronavirus.

As of today, March 18th, the airline has also suspended international tickets sales during the 30-day period, until March 22nd.

See all the latest updates about the global COVID-19 pandemic on Vancouver Island

The federal government recently announced an $82 billion assistance package for Canadians and businesses struggling financially during the global pandemic.

Earlier this week, B.C. joined Alberta and Ontario in declaring a public health emergency in order to curb the spread of COVID-19.

On Wednesday, B.C. Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth declared a provincial state of emergency to support the health ministry’s public health emergency.

The provincial government also announced the indefinite suspension of all in-person classes at K-12 schools in B.C.

Canada has tightened its borders and is denying entry to people who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents in Canada.

U.S. citizens are no longer an exception to this rule, and non-essential travel between U.S. and Canada will be temporarily banned by March 21st. Moreover international flights have now been restricted to international airports in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary.

The BCCDC has set up a 2019 novel coronavirus telephone information line at 1-833-784-4397 for those who have further questions about this disease.

Anyone concerned that they may have been exposed to, or are experiencing symptoms of the novel coronavirus, should contact their primary care provider, local public health office, or call 8-1-1.

The Province has also created the 1-888-COVID-19  line to connect British Columbians needing non-medical information about the coronavirus pandemic.

As of the time of publication, the total number of COVID-19 patients worldwide has risen to 259,685.

Over 10,500 people have died from the illness and 89,914 have made a full recovery.


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