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Old November 20th, 2008, 05:41 AM   #801
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I don't think safety was compromised throughout the ordeal. There was still a commander in the cockpit. I was more worried about a potential struggle to get the disoriented crew out.
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Old November 20th, 2008, 05:47 AM   #802
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HARTride 2012 View Post
The pilot then asked flight attendants to find out if any passenger was a qualified pilot. When none was found, one stewardess admitted she held a current commercial pilot's license but said her license for reading cockpit instruments had expired.
Thank goodness. I say fire the co-pilot and replace him with this flight attendant.
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Old December 7th, 2008, 05:42 AM   #803
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How come JAZZ paints their planes in different colours? That must add to the bill.
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Old December 7th, 2008, 04:37 PM   #804
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Air Canada, Out in Cold, Learns Fuel Self-Reliance
1 December 2008
The Wall Street Journal

Montreal -- All airlines are obsessed with jet fuel, but Air Canada faces an unusual challenge: finding enough. On some days, major Canadian airports operate with only a few hours of fuel on hand -- far too little for comfort.

Part of the problem is that Canada's small pipeline infrastructure is overtaxed and the nation's major refiners are cutting back on production. Looking south doesn't help much because most U.S. refiners don't produce the extreme-cold-tolerant blend of jet fuel that Canada requires.

So Air Canada decided to boost its fuel supply itself. The ACE Aviation Holdings Inc. unit is building fuel-storage depots, pipelines and docks and leasing rail cars, trucks and barges. It is also scouring the globe for vessel shipments of refined jet fuel and buying the precious liquid with its own credit from as far away as Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and Venezuela. In March, Air Canada and the rest of the airlines that serve Toronto Pearson International Airport will open a satellite tank farm, pipeline and rail siding to bolster supplies at the nation's busiest airport.

"We want to own it, control it," says Paul Whitty, the carrier's director of fuel purchasing and supply, who recalls a time a few years ago when the shortage was so dire that the Toronto airport storage-depot operator used manual pumps to get every last drop of fuel from the tanks. "The only thing we're not doing is buying the crude and processing it" into jet fuel, he says.

Air Canada's efforts are keeping the carrier aloft and shaving up to 100 million Canadian dollars (US$80 million) a year from its overall fuel tab, which could reach C$3.5 billion this year. The carrier, which controls 60% of the Canadian market, consumed 25 million barrels of jet fuel world-wide last year, 65% of it in its home market.

U.S. airlines complain bitterly about pricey fuel, but they generally don't have trouble getting it. The U.S. has plenty of refining capacity, many ports and an extensive interstate pipeline system.

In Canada, some refining plants have closed, and some oil companies are shifting from producing aviation fuel to making diesel and other distillates in greater demand. While only 10% of Canada's aviation fuel was imported eight years ago, imports accounted for 33% last year, according to the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute, a trade association of refiners and marketers.

John Armbrust, an aviation-fuel consultant in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., says Air Canada's fuel problems also reflect a retreat by oil companies from many of the distribution options they offered 15 or 20 years ago. The airline's "supply chain has gotten longer," he says. "Instead of around the block, it's halfway around the world."

Air Canada began working to become self-reliant a few years ago, when it first saw shortages looming. It leased fuel-storage space at the port in Quebec City and began buying jet fuel world-wide. The fuel arrives in bulk carriers that sail up the St. Lawrence River and unload in Quebec City. The airline then trucks the fuel to Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport about 145 miles away, in an around-the-clock operation.

Air Canada also moves 6,000 rail cars of fuel a year from Quebec City to a rail junction near Toronto 450 miles away, then loads the fuel on tanker trucks for the 17-mile trip to the airport. And the company charters barges to make the three-day voyage up the St. Lawrence to the Port of Hamilton, where it rents still more fuel-storage tanks. Then it trucks that fuel nearly 40 miles to the Toronto airport, its largest hub.

The Quebec City project, which costs more than C$10 million a year in lease expenses for the tanks, rail cars and trucks, meets only 60% to 70% of Air Canada's fuel needs at Toronto, Mr. Whitty says. So the airline, in cooperation with the not-for-profit airline-fueling consortium there, leased a plot of nearby land from a rail hauler and has begun developing the satellite tank farm that it will open early next year. "That will get us up to six or seven days' supply," Mr. Whitty says.

Air Canada isn't the only Canadian carrier dealing with shortages. This fall, when three refineries in Alberta had outages, WestJet Airlines Ltd. decided the time had come to spread its fuel-supply bets. The carrier, which has 30% of the domestic market, began buying some of its fuel from a refinery in Washington state and sending it by railcar to its hub in Calgary, a five- to seven-day journey. Air Canada currently has adequate supplies in Calgary, Mr. Whitty says, but looking ahead, it is considering a similar plan under which it would bring fuel in by rail from the West Coast.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 10:12 AM   #805
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C-FIUA @ YYZ

That is the flight deck.




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Old December 8th, 2008, 07:09 PM   #806
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Aeroplan to allow more flexible itineraries
8 December 2008
The Globe and Mail

For frequent fliers looking for a silver lining in a recession, customer loyalty program Groupe Aeroplan Inc. is adding greater flexibility to its flight rewards starting today, hoping to spur travel in tough times.

A rule that required travellers to cross the same ocean on outbound and inbound trips will be replaced by a system that allows passengers to choose an itinerary with broader scope, so the departing flight could cross the Pacific and the return flight could cross the Atlantic.

Aeroplan members will also be able to make two stopovers on Air Canada or the Star Alliance of airlines on all international destinations, in addition to visiting the “point of turnaround,” compared with just one stopover previously, Aaron Carr, Aeroplan director of air rewards, said in an interview.

Carriers belonging to the Star Alliance include Air Canada, US Airways Group Inc., Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), Singapore International Airlines and Air China.

While Aeroplan considered expanding its program even before the recession took hold, the changes are kicking in as travel demand weakens and consumers look for value, Mr. Carr said.

“By increasing the number of stopovers to two from one, we are encouraging members to look to Aeroplan as their travel solution. You could structure a stop on the outbound and another stop on the inbound flight, in addition to choosing your destination,” he said.

For example, a traveller based in Vancouver will now be able to get off in Toronto and do some visiting, then fly to London's Heathrow Airport – the point of turnaround or destination. On the return trip, the person could stop in Montreal to check out the sights, then board the plane back home to Vancouver.

An example of crossing both oceans on the same trip would be Montreal-Vancouver-Hong Kong on the outbound trip, then Hong Kong-Frankfurt-Montreal on the return flight.

“You could create a tour through your single reward redemption,” Mr. Carr said.

Before, only one stopover was permitted for most trips, with only Air Canada flights to Australia, Asia and Tel Aviv offering the flexibility of two stopovers.

In another move, Aeroplan members who are already allowed a stopover for Air Canada flights between Canada and the United States will have the option to make a stopover when flying US Airways.

The changes will be rolled out starting Monday, removing some long-time booking restrictions.

Montreal-based Aeroplan benefits whenever frequent fliers redeem their points, which reduces their accounts and encourages them to collect more, analysts say. The company garners revenue by selling Aeroplan miles to buyers such as Air Canada and CIBC Visa, which in turn issue points to consumers.
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Old December 8th, 2008, 07:11 PM   #807
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Baird greenlights new flights to Panama, greater consumer choice

OTTAWA, Dec. 4 /CNW/ -- OTTAWA, Dec. 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Canada's Transport Minister, John Baird, today announced the designation of Air Transat to operate twice weekly scheduled flights between Canada and Panama, and WestJet to operate scheduled flights between Canada and Panama on a weekly basis.

"Air Transat's and WestJet's respective designations will give Canadians more choice in international travel," said Minister Baird. "At a time of global economic uncertainty, I'm pleased to see this kind of growth in Canada's airline industry."

Under the provisions of Canada's international air transportation policy, all Canadian air carriers may apply to the Minister for designation to operate scheduled international air services. These latest designations were made possible by the bilateral air transport agreement between Canada and Panama concluded in June 2008.

The agreement permits each country to designate any number of airlines for the operation of scheduled air services to and from Canada. In addition, airlines from each country can serve any point in the other's territory.

Transport Canada is online at www.tc.gc.ca. Subscribe to news releases and speeches at www.tc.gc.ca/e-news and keep up to date on the latest from Transport Canada.
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Old December 16th, 2008, 10:49 AM   #808
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Air Canada ripe for play, report says
Analysts skeptical; Other airlines could be strategic bidders

16 December 2008
National Post

ACE Aviation Holdings Inc.' s windup proposal, lower fuel prices, a better-than-expected Canadian air travel market, and the country's open skies agreement with the European Union could put Air Canada in play, a new report suggests. Its severely depressed share price may also lure strategic or financial buyers, but analysts say a sale is a long shot given ACE's previous inability to unload its 75% stake in the country's largest airline.

While it appears that ACE's asset-distribution plan would see its 75 million Air Canada Class B shares passed on to shareholders, a court-appointed liquidator would dictate what exactly is done with all the assets.

Given their willingness to make acquisitions, Lufthansa, Air France/ KLM or British Airways could be strategic bidders, according to Scotia Capital analyst David Tyerman. Lufthansa and Air Canada already have a revenue-sharing agreement. The federal government's pact with the EU, meanwhile, would eventually raise foreign ownership restrictions limits to 49% of voting shares, up from the current limit of 25%.

"We think this could interest strategic or financial buyers, given the company's currently depressed share price," Mr. Tyerman told clients, pegging the mid-term value of Air Canada shares at around $12. They continue to trade below $1.50.

Onex Corp. bid for the airline in 1999 but its plan to merge it with Canadian Airlines failed. This time around, financial buyers might be attracted by Air Canada's considerable asset-based borrowing power, which the analyst estimated at $1.2-billion. He said this should allow the company to fund its near-term liquidity challenges, while recent transactions suggest Air Canada would likely be able to execute on borrowing opportunities.

Canaccord Adams analyst Tom Varesh said a sale of Air Canada to a strategic or financial buyer is in the realm of possibility given the court-appointed liquidator's mandate, but that it is really a long shot. "Management's been trying to sell it for a year and a half now, if not longer," he said. "If there is going to be a bidder three months from now, I'd imagine there is a bidder now ..."

When the liquidator gets ahold of the company at the end of January or early February, Mr. Varesh doesn't see it being able to attract anyone new to the process. "I don't think the liquidator would fire sale the shares knowing that he or she could easily just redistribute those shares and leave it in the hands of shareholders instead," he added.

Research Capital's Jacques Kavafian agrees. "It's not like they're lining up," the analyst said, noting that other than Lufthanse and Air France/ KLM, most airlines are content to keep their cash in this credit environment.

"It makes no difference to ACE shareholders," he said. "If Lufthansa were to buy those shares, it doesn't mean they would pay a premium to the

market." In fact, Mr. Kavafian suggested a buyer could even get a discount. "Anyone who had an interest, they knew who to call. All you had to do was call [ACE CEO Robert] Milton and you could've done a deal."

The analyst also noted that WestJet Airlines Ltd. has more than $800-million in cash, so it could easily afford the stake in Air Canada. However, he doesn't think they would be interested in getting into the markets Air Canada is in.
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Old December 19th, 2008, 03:50 AM   #809
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FINALLY! Another airliner from the south invades north of 60. WestJet introduces a daily flight service to Yellowknife. And, guess what? cheaper fares!!! no need to go up north for $800 (roundtrip $1600). at least you can go up north for only $375 (roundtrip $750)! there are a lot of things to buy in $850. lol

WestJet's summer arrival in Yellowknife sparks northern fare war
At least one northern airline says it may have to make changes to compete with discount airline WestJet, which will start flying in and out of Yellowknife in the summer.

The Calgary-based airline announced Wednesday that starting on May 4, 2009 — and only during summers — it will be offering daily one-way flights between the N.W.T. capital and Edmonton for $149, not including taxes and surcharges.

A round-trip flight, with all taxes and surcharges, would cost $376.25.

On the heels of WestJet's announcement, Yellowknife-based Canadian North launched a seat sale, offering return flights between Yellowknife and Edmonton for $100 one-way, and between Yellowknife and Calgary for $150 one-way (plus taxes and fees) between May 3 and Oct. 31. The sale runs through Dec. 22.

With taxes and fees included, Canadian North's sale fare between Yellowknife and Edmonton would add up to $273.35 round-trip.

But Canadian North president Tracy Medve said the airline may have to make some bigger changes to its service in order to stay competitive.

"We don't charge people for pillows and blankets and headphones and food; we provide all that," Medve said Wednesday.

"So, if we're going to compete on price — which is the big reason for being excited about WestJet coming, I guess — then we have to look at what that might mean for that type of service model that we have."

Air Canada Jazz has also started matching WestJet's fares. It is offering one-way flights between Yellowknife and Edmonton for $149 without taxes or surcharges starting May 4, according to that airline's booking website Thursday.

First Air charges about $600 for return flights between Yellowknife and Edmonton.

source: http://www.cbc.ca/consumer/story/200...tjet-reax.html
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Old December 19th, 2008, 10:22 AM   #810
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^ So many flights all of a sudden. Would they be profitable though?
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Old December 20th, 2008, 08:52 AM   #811
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Source : http://www.pbase.com/newscam/air_canada







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Old December 20th, 2008, 02:20 PM   #812
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Snow blamed as plane skids off runway
18 December 2008
National Post

Heavy snow late on Tuesday is being blamed for an Air Canada Jazz airplane skidding off a runway before takeoff at Pearson International Airport in Toronto. The Dash 8-100 airplane left the paved runway before coming to rest in a grassy area just after 11 p. m., Air Canada spokeswoman Manon Stuart said yesterday. None of the 37 passengers aboard the Sudbury, Ont.-bound flight was seriously injured. They were shuttled to nearby hotels and were expected to board a flight to their destination yesterday, Ms. Stuart said. An internal investigation has been launched. "We can't speculate as to the cause but it was snowing at the time of the incident," Ms. Stuart said. This was the second incident of the sort in the province in two days.
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Old December 20th, 2008, 03:10 PM   #813
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Flyers get a break on fuel costs
17 December 2008
Canwest News Service

OTTAWA - Consumers who logged on to Air Canada's website Wednesday to book a getaway in the new year received welcome relief on fuel surcharges for Vancouver-Hong Kong flights.

A few days earlier, the extra fuel charge stood at $290. But it plunged to $166 by Wednesday and is now in line with Cathay Pacific Airways, which chopped its fuel surcharge on the Vancouver-Hong Kong route to $164.60 at the beginning of December.

Montrealers hoping to go to Paris in January weren't as lucky. The fuel surcharge remained steady at $290, the same as competitor Air France.

Torontonians willing to cross the equator via Air Canada to avoid winter weather in the new year also got a welcome surprise. The fuel surcharge dropped this week from $335 to $220 for a flight to Sydney, Australia, via Los Angeles. This now bests the $244 fuel fee charged by Air Canada's international competitor on this route, Qantas.

Ottawa residents interested in spending a week in London via Toronto in mid- January saw a less dramatic drop, down slightly Wednesday from $360 to $330.

And although Air Canada does not have fuel surcharges on North American flights, Ottawa customers booking a direct flight to London to avoid the short hop to Toronto enjoyed a substantially lower surcharge - at $250 on Wednesday for a direct flight,it beat the $270 charge by British Airways to cover the price of fuel for the same Ottawa-London route.

Meanwhile, Calgarians keen to go to Cancun to flee the frigid January days saw Air Canada's fuel surcharge drop this week from $170 to $130, but its domestic competitor to the sun destination, WestJet, doesn't have a fuel surcharge.

The Calgary-based airliner eliminated the $90 surcharge to all its sun destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean in September when oil prices dropped dramatically after an unprecedented summer spike.

The average retail price for unleaded gas in Canada plummeted from $1.36 per litre in July to 88 cents per litre in November, according to MJ Ervin and Associates Inc.

In a statement, Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur said despite this drop, the fuel surcharges collected this year won't cover the extra fuel costs. And fares, she said, are dynamic, and often go up and down.

``These movements are a response to competition, the effects of supply and demand in the marketplace and our costs. Each carrier reviews their own costs to determine surcharges. Oil has indeed come down but in the most recent quarter we still spent an extra $348 million on fuel and we expect this year overall to spend $800 million more on fuel than last year. Surcharges have not covered this amount.''

Arthur added that fuel surcharges on international routes ``are continually reviewed and adjusted to remain competitive in every market we serve.''

Ramy Elitzur, airline industry expert and professor in financial analysis at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, says this week's changes in fuel surcharges shows competition - not costs - is the driving force behind the fluctuations.

``The story is actually what they tell us is probably inaccurate. It's a function not of cost, but competition. Whenever they have much bigger competition, they tend to toe to the line and basically charge what other people do.''

WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer said the decision at his airline in September to drop the four-month-old fuel surcharge on all its routes - including its $90 surcharge for all its international sun destinations - was a no-brainer for the company.

``When oil went to $145 a barrel, of course, it was unheard of. That's when the surcharge went on,'' he said in an interview.

``We had always said we would remove the fuel surcharge as soon as we possibly could. We did it in a very different way. We were very open and transparent.''

Palmer added airlines are in the same predicament when it come to fuel costs.

``We buy at the best prices we can find. We hedge, almost all airlines hedge. And we've hedged a little bit in 2009 as well. But hedging really only helps you when the prices are very high, obviously, and the prices have dropped. Honestly, for any industry like ours, or anybody in the transportation industry, this is a welcome relief.''
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Old December 21st, 2008, 05:04 AM   #814
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Air Canada to launch daily, non-stop Montréal-Rome service

MONTREAL, Dec. 15 /CNW Telbec/ - Air Canada today announced that it will launch non-stop service between Montréal and Rome to meet seasonal travel demand. Beginning June 20, 2009 the carrier will operate daily non-stop flights during the busy summer travel season linking the Italian capital with Air Canada's extensive Québec and Atlantic Canada network, as well as major cities on the Eastern U.S. seaboard. Re-introduction of direct Montréal-Rome service complements Air Canada's Toronto-Rome non-stop service set to resume in February 2009.

"This is great news for Montreal's Italian community and travelers in eastern Canada and the U.S. who will benefit from substantial time savings during the peak travel season to Italy," said Ben Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. "The reintroduction of our non-stop service between Montréal and Rome strengthens Air Canada's commitment to offer
convenient flights from Montréal to key international destinations. With the addition of three new destinations this year, Geneva, Fort de France, Martinique and now Rome, Air Canada offers non-stop service from Montréal to 50 destinations. By next summer we will have increased capacity across the Atlantic from Montréal by 35 per cent year over year, with non stop service to five European gateway cities including London, Paris, Frankfurt, Geneva and Rome."

For greater convenience and travel choice, Air Canada will offer connecting flights via Rome operated by its partner airline Air One to popular destinations in Italy, including Bari, Milan, Palermo and Venice. As well, Air Canada's Star Alliance partners Lufthansa and Swiss International Air Lines offer service from Montreal to Munich and Zurich respectively, further
increasing connections and travel options.

To promote Air Canada's new Montréal-Rome service, the airline is offering special introductory round-trip fares starting at $798, plus applicable taxes and surcharges, for travel commencing between June 20 and July 4, 2009. These special fares are available for purchase until January 5, 2009 through aircanada.com, Air Canada Reservations or travel agents.

"We are very enthusiastic about this initiative by Air Canada for Montreal, given the popularity of Rome as a summer travel destination," said Mr. James Cherry, President and Chief Executive Officer at Aéroports de Montréal.

Air Canada's Montreal-Rome non-stop service will be operated using a 211-seat Boeing 767-300 ER aircraft offering a choice of Economy Class and Executive First service featuring 24 lay flat bed suites. Further details and a virtual tour of Air Canada's new cabin amenities, including personal seatback entertainment at every seat, are available at:
http://www.aircanada.com/en/travelin...incomfort.html .

With an eastbound flight time of eight hours, travelers will save more than two hours off alternate routings via Toronto or Frankfurt. Operation of the new route is subject to obtaining necessary government approvals.

Code:
                  Montréal         Rome                  Rome       Montréal

    AC892            17:35    07:30 (+1)     AC893      09:20          12:25
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Old December 24th, 2008, 03:40 AM   #815
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Air Canada signs deal for five-year loan worth US$78 million
22 December 2008
The Canadian Press

MONTREAL - Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) said Monday that it has signed a deal for a five-year loan for US$78 million with Calyon New York Branch and Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale.

The airline said the deal is part of a plan to improve short-term and longer-term liquidity.

The loan, worth about C$95 million, will mature in December 2013.

Earlier this month, the cash-strapped airline signed a deal to receive $70 million from Groupe Aeroplan Inc. (TSX:AER) to help tide it over during its seasonally slow winter season.

Under that deal, Aeroplan will pay the airline when bookings are made and will resume a 45-day delay in payments next spring.

Air Canada shares were down 11 cents or seven per cent at $1.45 on the Toronto Stock Exchange on Monday.
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Old December 25th, 2008, 05:12 AM   #816
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Air Canada bolsters cash with $195 mln financing

CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Air Canada , the country's biggest airline, said on Wednesday it has secured up to $195 million in financing from General Electric Capital Corp , bolstering the carrier's cash position.

The airline said the agreement sees the airline getting a $155 million secured loan that is due in 2014. The cash will be paid out in two tranches, with the first, providing $80 million and due in 2014, secured on Wednesday. The second tranche is expected to close by the end of January.

The agreement is subject to Air Canada also completing a sale and leaseback of a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft with GE Capital's GE Commercial Aviation Services unit.

The sale and leaseback agreement has a 12-year lease term and will provide Air Canada with another $40 million.

Air Canada said the agreement was part of a series of measures the company has taken to shore up its liquidity. Earlier this month it raised C$70 million ($57 million) as the operator of its frequent flyer plan agreed to speed payment for reward tickets.

In November, the company said it has C$1.114 billion in cash on hand, not much above the C$1 billion level the airline considers to be a comfortable amount.

Air Canada's class A shares rose 15 Canadian cents to C$1.50 at midmorning on Wednesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. ($1=$1.22 Canadian)
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Old December 27th, 2008, 06:05 PM   #817
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Robert Milton's legacy Up in the air
National carrier lost altitude this year and '09 looks turbulent, too, as its parent dissolves and labour talks loom

27 December 2008
The Toronto Star

Robert Milton is finally set to depart Air Canada after nearly a decade at the controls - just as questions about the future of the stripped-down airline are beginning to fly.

While the chief executive of parent ACE Aviation Holdings Inc. has had one foot out the door for months - he and his family have already moved from Montreal to the United Kingdom - plans to wind up the holding company are only now moving forward after ACE recently received a favourable tax ruling from Ottawa.

The dissolution, which will require approval from investors in late February, will see some $811 million in cash distributed to ACE shareholders alongside the holding company's 75 per cent stake in Air Canada itself - the final act in a series of sales and spinoffs of former Air Canada business units that began when the airline exited bankruptcy protection four years ago.

Since ACE's windup plan does not transfer any money to Air Canada, the country's biggest airline is effectively being left to fend for itself as it grapples with a cash crunch brought on by a weak economy, offside fuel hedging contracts and a dearth of traditional borrowing options thanks to the financial crisis.

Milton, however, offers no apologies.

"We actually tried very hard to do a deal and ACE first approached Air Canada back in July," he said in a recent interview, adding that financial advisers from both companies had been working on various windup scenarios for months.

"In the end, the advisers just couldn't come to an agreement and Air Canada gave us the message that they were not in need of the cash."

Instead, Air Canada has arranged for its former frequent-flyer program, Aeroplan, to "accelerate" $75 million worth of payments owing. And, this week, Air Canada revealed it had secured a five-year, $95 million loan with Calyon New York and German bank Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale, as well as a $238 million loan from GE Capital Corp. that includes the sale and lease back of one of the airline's new Boeing 777s.

"I'm optimistic that Air Canada will be just fine and figure its way through this and get on to 2009, which promises to be a great year, particularly given where oil prices have gone," Milton said.

Born in the United States, Milton spent more than 15 years with Air Canada after first joining the airline in 1992 as a consultant. He became CEO in 1999, which was just in time to fight a hostile takeover led by Gerry Schwartz's Onex Corp. and AMR Corp.'s American Airlines - a battle that ultimately led to a difficult merger with the former Canadian Airlines International Ltd.

"This guy experienced everything," said Rick Erickson, a Calgary-based aviation consultant. "He experienced a hostile takeover, 9/11 and SARS. He went into bankruptcy with an airline and brought it out a completely new entity."

But while Milton is often lauded as an industry visionary for blowing up the traditional airline concept in an era of low-cost competitors, not everyone is confident the "new" Air Canada is equipped to weather the coming storm.

Unlike other big network carriers, Air Canada no longer owns its own loyalty program, regional feeder airline Jazz or its former maintenance division. The business units were spun off by ACE as part of Air Canada's restructuring, shaped by Milton and other executives.

Depending on who you talk to, Milton's carve-out strategy was either a brilliant scheme to unearth hidden value for long-suffering investors or a financial pillaging that leaves the former flag carrier exposed to shifting winds in a notoriously unpredictable industry.

Some of the proceeds from Air Canada's asset sales were reinvested in new long-haul aircraft and refurbishing older planes, but a sizeable chunk of cash - about $2 billion - was returned directly to ACE shareholders. They include Cerberus Capital Management LLP, the New York private-equity firm that made a key investment in Air Canada's restructuring and holds two seats on ACE's board.

The airline's powerful pilots' union claims that what was good for ACE shareholders was not necessarily good for Air Canada. It argues that employees, who made deep concessions during the restructuring, were promised proceeds from the asset sales would be reinvested in the airline.

"Instead, ACE has sold the most profitable arms of Air Canada and distributed over $2 billion to a group of largely foreign shareholders," the union said in a recent statement. "This windup is merely the final chapter in a sad tale of broken promises."

Others argue that Air Canada has been financially hobbled since it can no longer look to its loyalty program or maintenance business to bring in additional cash during lean periods. Now, the airline must survive on ticket sales alone - which may be why Air Canada was recently advertising half-price fares for flights until November of next year, a bold move that rival WestJet Airlines Ltd. later followed.

"I think the book is still open on this whole gambit," said Erickson. "I don't think we know yet whether this was the right strategy or not, but it might have been the only strategy open to them."

Milton, not surprisingly, is dismissive of the criticism. He argues Air Canada would not be any better off today if it still owned the former business units.

"This, in my opinion, is a simplistic view," he said. "When things get bad, everything that is airline-related becomes bad. So (the related businesses) are far better off being independent and seeking their own fortunes than being sucked down into the mire that is a traditional airline."

As proof, he points to Aeroplan's current market capitalization of about $1.5 billion, which is higher than Air Canada's and, more importantly, that of several big U.S. carriers that are still flying around with all their various business units in tow.

He also stressed that Air Canada's initial public offering two years ago left it with $2.5 billion in cash, which is "probably $1 billion more than Air Canada has ever had in its history."

Yet, while he suggested that no airline in the world has been able to escape the recent industry headwinds, he needn't look any farther than Air Canada's own backyard for a glaring exception: WestJet Airlines Ltd.

The Calgary-based low-cost carrier continues to remain profitable and boasts some of the best margins in the North American industry. Moreover, WestJet is continuing to expand its capacity while most other carriers, including Air Canada, have been cutting back on their flying.

Milton concedes the point, but not before pointing out that WestJet's stock has also suffered. Indeed, shares are down by about 50 per cent since the beginning of the year. By contrast, Air Canada's shares have fallen by nearly 90 per cent over the same period.

"In relative terms, that's one of the best airline stories on the planet right now, but not for WestJet shareholders," he said. "But in terms of the operations of an airline, that's a good story."

Of course, comparing WestJet and Air Canada is not exactly a fair fight. As a relatively young carrier, WestJet benefits immensely from a non-unionized workforce, a relatively modern fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft and a route map that consists mostly of destinations within continental North America.

Air Canada, on the other hand, flies to airports across the globe using multiple aircraft types. More importantly, it is weighed down by so-called legacy costs, which include employee pension benefits that have been ditched by many big U.S. carriers.

Still, if Milton's strategy is such a no-brainer when it comes to legacy carriers, why didn't other traditional airlines follow suit?

"I think that basically what happened is that the markets collapsed," said Milton, adding that Australia's Qantas Airways came the closest to a frequent flyer spinoff while other big U.S. carriers mused about the option. "They didn't move fast enough."

Milton added that he hopes investors will eventually recognize the benefits of isolating profit centres from the core airline business. He also argues that Air Canada is poised to benefit from one of the most innovative business models in the industry.

That includes a modern fleet and a novel pricing system, developed by CEO Montie Brewer, that encourages passengers to book online and allows them to buy services - ranging from meals and blankets to an extra level of customer support in the event of weather or traffic-related flight delays or cancellations - on an a la carte basis.

Milton said it's likely that Air Canada's unique characteristics will one day make it an attractive takeover target. "I think there's an inevitability about this," he said, noting a trend toward big airline mergers.

Some observers agree.

David Tyerman, an analyst at Scotia Capital, wrote in a recent research note that the ACE windup could put Air Canada into play for a strategic or financial buyer given the airline's "currently depressed share price" and a Canadian market that is holding up relatively well in the face of a global financial crisis.

Shares of Air Canada, which were at $12.20 last Dec. 31, closed on Dec. 23 at $1.57 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Tyerman said a recently signed Canada-European Union open-skies pact could enable offshore buyers to look at purchasing Air Canada - presumably because of promises Ottawa has made to lower foreign ownership limits.

"Lufthansa, Air France-KLM and British Airways have all demonstrated an acquisition bent and Air Canada and Lufthansa already have a revenue-sharing agreement," Tyerman said.

In the near term, though, Air Canada must first figure out a way to navigate through some ominous storm clouds.

In addition to its cash situation, the airline is facing its first round of labour negotiations since restructuring. The talks, scheduled to take place in 2009, are expected to be rocky.

David Newman, an analyst at National Bank Financial, called the negotiations a "possible tipping point, subject to new sources of cash." Milton, however, remains confident the airline can avoid another trip through bankruptcy protection, despite the fact that several big U.S. carriers have filed for Chapter 11 multiple times.

"It's going to require everyone to always be pragmatic, which is difficult," he said. "There has to be, on the part of all who are associated with Air Canada, the recognition that it is a very volatile business.

"That's just never going to go away."
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Old December 29th, 2008, 12:03 AM   #818
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Thanks! That was a good read. There's never a dull moment concerning Canada's aviation industry.
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Old January 2nd, 2009, 09:24 AM   #819
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Air Canada secures another C$100 mln of financing

CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 31 (Reuters) - Air Canada said on Wednesday it won a C$100 million ($82 million) credit facility from Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in its fourth arrangement for badly needed financing this month.

Air Canada, the country's biggest airline, said it has already drawn C$50 million from the new one-year secured revolving credit facility as it seeks to shore up its cash position.

Shares in Air Canada rose 9 Canadian cents, or more than 5 percent, to C$1.80 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

In November, the carrier said it had C$1.114 billion of cash on hand, slightly higher than the amount it considers comfortable for its operations, as the global credit crunch led to a slowdown in travel demand, especially between Canadian and U.S. destinations.

Since then, its frequent-flier operator, Groupe Aeroplan Inc , agreed to speed up payment for reward tickets, which translated into a C$70 million cash injection.

It secured a C$95 million five-year loan with Calyon New York Branch and Norddeutsche Landesbank Girozentrale, and on Dec. 24 got up to C$238 million in financing from GE Capital Corp as part of a sale and leaseback arrangement with one of its new Boeing 777 jets.

Earlier this month, Air Canada's parent company, ACE Aviation Holdings Inc , said it will wind up its operations and distribute its stock in the airline and other assets to its shareholders.

($1=$1.22 Canadian)
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Old January 7th, 2009, 04:17 PM   #820
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Air Canada's unhappy holidays
7 January 2009
The Globe and Mail

They are memories of a hectic holiday season that Air Canada would rather forget, when the country's largest carrier had to foot the bill for more than 5,000 hotel rooms, issue thousands of meal vouchers and scramble to reduce a mountain of bags at airports.

In the aftermath, Air Canada is conducting an internal review of how it responded after winter storms led to widespread cancellations and delays during the holidays, dragging down the airline's performance to 59 per cent of flights arriving on time in December.

“Unfortunately, once the storms did clear we were unable to recover as quickly as we should have and some customers were justifiably upset because we did not provide the level of service they have the right to expect,” Air Canada chief executive officer Montie Brewer said in a message to employees. “The long lines, piles of delayed baggage, late and cancelled flights on airport screens and frustrated customers all made for unflattering visuals for the television newscasts.”

In November, an impressive 85 per cent of the carrier's flights met on-time performance (OTP) – landing within 15 minutes of scheduled arrival. But December is historically a tough period because of harsh weather, and Air Canada's OTP of 59 per cent last month fell short of its target of 68 per cent.

“Rest assured we are reviewing our performance at all levels throughout the company,” Mr. Brewer said. “We are not doing so to assign blame but rather to see what went wrong, what we can and must do better, and what worked well.”

The Montreal-based airline doesn't normally pay for hotel rooms when there are weather-related delays, but over the holidays, it felt it had to act in certain cases because of extreme snow, cold, freezing rain and wind. As well, Air Canada brought in larger aircraft to help transport stranded travellers, notably in Vancouver.

“Although we recognize the importance of an on-time performance for our customers, moving passengers on the same flight as their bags during this peak period became a priority over OTP,” Mr. Brewer said.

He said the cross-country scope of the severe winter weather was unusual, pointing out that Vancouver went through more de-icing fluid in one day than is normally used in half a season. “No aspect of the operation was spared as airports limited their operations, forcing us to delay and cancel flights. The timing was especially bad as we were in our peak holiday travel period, with as many as 110,000 people trying to fly on the day of a bad storm in Toronto,” Mr. Brewer said.

While union leaders say the carrier was understaffed for the Christmas rush, Mr. Brewer praised employees who “came forward to deal with the situation. People worked extra hours and did extraordinary things to help our customers.” Some unionized staff endured long hours because others had booked time off.

Air Canada has decided to honour its monthly Sharing Our Success incentive program, opting to give up to $75 to each eligible worker in recognition of the extra effort put in during December's storms, he said.

Although Air Canada didn't disclose what it cost to accommodate customers, WestJet Airlines Ltd. has estimated it paid more than $500,000 for roughly 6,000 hotel rooms on behalf of stranded travellers during the holidays. The Calgary-based carrier said it issued more than 25,000 meal vouchers valued at $220,000, and also chartered planes to help restore its flight schedule.

“What we have all accomplished together is nothing short of remarkable from an airline industry perspective,” WestJet CEO Sean Durfy told staff in a message titled Christmas Kudos. “We truly care for our guests and for each other.”

WestJet, which has non-union employees, benefited from many off-duty workers “who simply showed up” and asked how they could help, Mr. Durfy said.

So far, the Canadian Transportation Agency has received eight complaints against Air Canada and one against WestJet related to cancellations and delays since Dec. 15. The regulator encourages consumers to first resolve their differences with airlines before contacting the agency.

Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal MP Gerry Byrne, whose private member's motion spurred the creation last year of an airline passenger bill of rights called Flight Rights Canada, said the federal government must toughen protections for travellers whose vacations are ruined.
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