I want to welcome everybody to meeting number 15 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website. As you are aware, the webcast will always show the person speaking, rather than the entirety of the committee.
To ensure an orderly meeting, I would like to outline a few rules to follow.
Members and witnesses may speak in the official language of their choice. Interpretation services are available for this meeting. You have the choice, at the bottom of your screen, of the floor, English or French.
For members participating in person, proceed as you usually would when the whole committee is meeting in person in a committee room. Keep in mind the directives from the Board of Internal Economy regarding masking and health protocols.
Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. If you are on video conference, please click on the microphone icon to unmute. For those in the room, your microphone will be controlled as normal by the proceedings and verification officer. I remind you that all comments by members and witnesses should be addressed through the chair. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute.
With regard to the speaking list, the committee clerk and I will do our best to maintain the order of speaking for all members, whether they be participating virtually or in person.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee is meeting today to continue its study on the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation sector.
I would like to welcome our witnesses from Air Canada: Dave Rheault, managing director, government affairs and community relations; and Jim Chung, chief medical officer. From Westjet Airlines, we have Andy Gibbons, director, government relations and regulatory affairs.
We'll start with Air Canada and Mr. Rheault and Mr. Chung.
You have the floor for five minutes.
We are appearing before the committee today to talk about the devastating effect of COVID-19 on air travel.
I'm with Dr. Jim Chung, Air Canada's chief medical officer.
Before I begin, I would like to commend our employees—flight attendants, pilots, mechanics, airport staff, dispatchers and so on—and our partners and our suppliers, for their work during the pandemic, which has enabled us to continue our operations.
I would also like to reassure all those whose jobs have been affected by the pandemic that the entire Air Canada team is working tirelessly to protect our company and maintain it in a position from which it will be able to rebuild its network.
In 2019, we carried more than 50 million passengers across all inhabited continents. Our network connected the regions of Canada to each other and to more than 150 destinations around the world. Our three main hubs—Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal—were each ranked among the 50 most internationally connected cities. Apart from China and the United States, no other country, regardless of size, population or GDP, had three cities in this select ranking.
Prior to the pandemic, Air Canada directly employed close to 38,000 people in Canada, and another 6,000 at our regional partners. We also supported 190,000 jobs in spinoff industries and generated an estimated $50 billion in total economic output, or more than 2% of the country's GDP.
Air Canada and the aviation sector are truly economic enablers.
As an airline, we are in the business of safety. The safety of our passengers, crew and employees has, and continues to be, Air Canada's core priority.
This has guided us throughout this pandemic. Air Canada quickly implemented industry-leading measures or the CleanCare+ program to ensure the highest levels of safety—in many cases ahead of government regulation—including pre-flight passenger temperature checks, and passenger and employee face coverings.
As the said last Friday, carriers sat down with the government and, at the government's request, agreed to suspend their flights to sun destinations starting this week.
Despite these efforts, the impact of COVID-19 has been catastrophic for the whole travel and tourism sector.
Governments in Canada have imposed some of the strictest restrictions in the world, limiting intraprovincial, interprovincial, transborder and international travel. Demand for air travel has been devastated and airlines are losing massive amounts; in our case, we are burning around $15 million per day.
We had to act to mitigate our losses and preserve our liquidity. We took the difficult decision to suspend a number of routes networkwide, including regional routes. We also had to reduce our workforce by more than 20,000 employees. These decisions were not taken lightly, but, unfortunately, they were necessary.
This situation is unsustainable and could well cause major, irreparable and structural damage to Canada's transportation infrastructure. As several witnesses have mentioned, Canada must adopt an industry-specific program to help its carriers through the crisis and prepare a plan to ensure that travel can resume safely. The numbers that I have presented are telling. Our industry is an economic catalyst for the recovery of tourism and the aerospace industry as a whole. However, more is at stake, namely, the entire human aspect of air travel.
In a large country like Canada, air travel unites us. It allows us to see our families and loved ones, enables workers to be mobile and opens our country up to the world. Aviation facilitates trade and exports, which thousands of Canadian businesses depend on, and it fosters immigration, which is essential to our country's growth.
Governments in other countries have taken action by providing the equivalent of over $200 billion (Can) to their carriers, many of which are in direct competition with Canadian companies.
There are discussions ongoing between carriers and the government that are confidential, covered by NDAs, and on which our ability to comment is, of course, very limited.
In addition to sectorial support, other measures are needed to restart our industry. Air Canada is a strong proponent of a science-based, data-driven reopening of our borders. It can be done safely.
The McMaster HealthLabs study, which we sponsored at Pearson, has clearly demonstrated that a reduced quarantine requirement, in line with CDC guidelines, would protect against the spread of COVID-19 while allowing for a measured restart of the industry. Testing allows public health authorities to effectively identify and isolate incoming cases, reduces community transmission and allows safe travel.
The said last week that the government is committed to working with the major airlines on the future relationship between testing and quarantine requirements. We're hopeful that this committee will make a recommendation to that effect.
Before the pandemic, Canada had a competitive industry that was gaining market share and creating thousands of jobs at home. It must be protected.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair. Thank you very much for the opportunity to be with you this afternoon and contribute to your important study.
We at WestJet have heard from many communities and businesses that rely on our investments to connect them and their economies to the world. Our approach to this crisis overall has been multi-faceted but rooted in our commitment to serve Canadians and conduct ourselves in a transparent manner with all levels of government.
Before we get into details, it is important to thank our employees who have suffered so much but continue to serve Canadians and persevere. Everyone in our company is fighting for you.
COVID had had a devastating impact on WestJet and our employees, with bookings dropping as much as 95%. A staggering 97% of guests who had booked pre-COVID to fly between July and November ended up cancelling. At our current booking levels, we would need six and a half years to achieve our 2019 bookings, but this story is not just about bookings and revenue.
We now only have 5,600 active WestJetters remaining from our pre-pandemic workforce of over 14,000. One thousand of these employees are on leave and another 4,000 have, sadly, exited permanently a company and a career they loved. WestJetters have been living in uncertainty, enduring a roller coaster of layoff, recall, layoff, with the fluidity and unpredictability of the travel restrictions we have seen.
WestJet has had to make tough decisions. By slashing our costs by 60%, we have been able to implement our progressive refund policies and maintain regional air services to the greatest extent possible.
Safety remains our top priority. We have implemented stringent health and hygiene policies that ensure the safety of our staff and our guests. We work very collaboratively with our public health partners. Since the pandemic began, we've operated more than 30,000 flights and carried more than 1.3 million guests. As former Minister of Transport noted, there have been no known transmissions of COVID on board an aircraft. In September, we implemented a zero-tolerance mask policy. This is just a broad highlight of some of the measures.
WestJet thanks the for recognizing the measures we have taken to keep Canadians safe, and on Friday, for calling us a strong partner in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
Contact tracing is also an important step of stemming COVID-19. This is why WestJet has taken extra steps throughout the pandemic in advising our public, our guests and our employees who have been affected by COVID-19. It is our understanding that we are the only airline group to post affected flights on our external channels and email any impacted guests.
We're a proud partner with Vancouver International Airport, which you have heard from, and the University of British Columbia and Providence Health Care on a research pilot that is testing the use of rapid testing for departure in an airport environment. We are also grateful to the Government of Canada and the Government of Alberta for the arrivals-testing pilot project that safely reduces quarantine times for arrivals. We believe that study and pilot project is an essential piece of work that should remain intact.
On refunds, a subject of great discussion at this committee, we remain the only Canadian airline that proactively refunds guests whose flights were cancelled by us due to the pandemic, whether the fares purchased were refundable or non-refundable. We announced this important step in October and have been recognized by consumer groups and others for this progressive and proactive step. Our decision aligns us with the consumer-friendly policies in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Last week this committee heard from our union partners, who are united in their advocacy of measures to allow Canadians to safely resume travel. We are not seeking a policy that strictly supports our bottom line. We are seeking a framework that will lower the cost of travel for Canadian families, introduce green credits for fuel efficient aircraft and ensure that Canada has a competitive global airline based in western Canada.
There are two main priorities we recommend that this committee include in your final report. The first is that, given global uncertainty, Canada must prioritize domestic travel and negotiate a transparent and clear policy with provincial governments. This could be based on COVID levels or a percentage of the population vaccinated. We believe this should be a priority item for the and the . Canadians should be able to see their country this summer safely.
Second, we recommend that you transition the Alberta pilot project into national policy and include funding for this in the upcoming federal budget. The relationship between testing and quarantine requirements must evolve, and we note the Prime Minister's commitment to work on this.
In closing, I have a few brief comments about the proposed Air Canada-Air Transat merger, as it has been a subject of interest for members. Like the Competition Bureau and other consumer groups, WestJet has grave concerns about this. Air Canada and Air Transat are number one and two for the trans-Atlantic market—
Like the Competition Bureau and other groups, we have grave concerns. Air Canada and Air Transat are number one and two on the trans-Atlantic market.
For that critical part of our global market, this would effectively be a merger between Bell and Rogers. Air Canada would hold a combined 94% share of Canadian carrier capacity to Europe and a 70% market share on key routes from Toronto to London, Paris and Rome. Should the government decide to allow this merger, we also believe that critical remedies should be imposed, including on Aeroplan, slot spaces at international airports and the use of Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson.
Thank you so much for your time today. WestJet will continue to be a collaborative partner with all of you as we work towards a safe and responsible recovery.
Mr. Gibbons, it's very nice to see you. I want to applaud WestJet's zero-tolerance policy on those not wearing masks, which I saw implemented in front of me on my most recent trip home from Ottawa. It is enforced. I saw someone marched off the plane as the rest of the plane applauded.
I want to talk to you first about one of your last points, the YYC pilot project. As you know, as the official opposition, we have been calling repeatedly not only for a plan but a plan with rapid testing on arrival and departure as a cornerstone of this plan, yet we have not see this government implement it. They've come down with a sledgehammer as a result of their incapacity and inability to implement these other tools earlier within the pandemic, and of course now we're seeing this with the horrific vaccine rollout.
Could you please comment, first of all, on why you think this pilot project wasn't implemented, and second, on what it has been like to implement these travel restrictions with very little notice? First there was the 72-hour PCR test requirement on December 31, which was only implemented seven days later, and now there are these incredible travel restrictions that Canadians and, most importantly, the airline sector are suffering through in a rush to implement.
Our staff take it very seriously and take the safety of everyone very seriously. I actually am glad that you witnessed that.
I'll start with the Alberta pilot project, because it's front and centre and really critical. Notwithstanding the 's announcements on Friday, we do think that this pilot project should remain intact. The reason we feel this way is because of his words on Friday. What he committed to was to look at the relationship between quarantine and testing.
Eventually, our country is going to have to safely restart, and we do have to find ways to do this safely. If we have a made-in-Canada study with that data and research and with experience from air carriers, airports and our guests, etc., let's not throw that away. Let's keep that intact. As long as it has the confidence of the public health officials in Alberta and the continued confidence of the Public Health Agency, we think it should remain intact, because it gives us the best footprint and standing in order to move forward.
I'm just looking at my iPhone because I took a screenshot of Dr. Hinshaw's comments yesterday. She was asked about the pilot project as it relates to the spread of variants. I think it's a really important tweet and message that she put out, and I would encourage members to take a look.
She said, “We have detected cases thanks to our lab & border pilot program, which has detected 28 variant cases. Under the pilot, we have tested almost 45K travellers on arrival. This has been a vital tool to stop the virus from spreading quickly within our communities.” She went on to say, “Without this pilot program, our variant case numbers would be lower—but the variants would likely be spreading more widely in our province without us knowing about it. We are working hard to break the chain of transmission but are not out of the woods”.
The Alberta pilot project, Mrs. Kusie, allows for two tests, and it allows public health officials to capture quickly what the variants are or are not. You will note that they've also adjusted the pilot project and that it has shifted from quarantine release on first test to a second test at seven days. Hopefully, I have addressed how critical that is from a public health perspective, completely parking the economic side of that type of pilot project.
I was going to touch on the PCR measure before Christmas. Look, we put out a very tough communication after that announcement, and we did call the policies “incoherent and inconsistent”. That's not typical of our company to speak like that. The reason we felt that way, Mrs. Kusie, is that we did find out about that testing program in the media. We're so committed to public health and we're so committed to doing the right thing that it was very frustrating to not have our recommendations around testing put in place and then to be advised by the media that this was taking place.
The good news is that we did our very best. Our company rallied. We did our best to find tests for our guests and to get them home safely. I think the reaction to that announcement is better illustrated in our commitment to do the right thing for our guests and work collaboratively with the government than it is in our tough public response.
I hope that has touched on some of your questions.
In terms of support, I think the best guidance I could give you is the open letter that our president and CEO, Ed Sims, sent to members on December 10. That really is the best reference point for how we feel about those issues. As Mr. Rheault noted in his comments, we are under an NDA with respect to the actual negotiations and the substance of those, but I would refer you to that letter, because it does speak to how we see that issue.
With respect to the wage subsidy, we appreciate that. We have been thankful for the government. It has meant a lot to our people to stay connected to WestJet. You know how passionate our employers are for the work they do, so the ability to tie them to the company, which is the purpose of the program, has been valuable. We requested that the program be extended earlier in 2020, and the government agreed, and they did that, so kudos on CEWS.
Any comment that we make about additional support is not to minimize the value of that program, because it has been valuable, but you are correct. CEWS, no matter how you slice it, is not a robust industry recovery plan or an assistance package at all consistent with what other G7 nations and other countries have done.
First of all, I'd like to say to the witnesses that every member of this committee is very aware of the devastating economic impact that COVID-19 has had on your industry. Lest we forget, it has also had a devastating effect on the health of Canadians. We have some 20,000 Canadians dead of what, in theory, is a preventable disease.
I'd like to ask Dr. Chung my first question.
Dr. Chung, about a year ago you would have been, as chief medical officer for Air Canada, very aware of the fact that there was a novel coronavirus out there. A year ago, we already knew that the first case here in the GTA was a Canadian returning on a plane from Wuhan.
Please tell us what went through your mind. What was your thinking? You must, obviously, have a pandemic preparedness plan at Air Canada.
What actions did you take? What advice did you give to senior management at Air Canada in the early days of this pandemic?
Thank you, Chair, for the question.
I do fully agree that this has been a significant challenge for everyone—all Canadians. I don't think anyone is to blame, per se, for the pandemic. It really just happened.
We were fortunate in that we had already developed a partnership with a company called BlueDot, which is a health AI company that helped give us almost an early warning of this pandemic. I'd be dishonest if I said I didn't realize early on in January how much of a significant pandemic this would be.
Having said that, Mr. Chair, as they mentioned, we did have a pandemic playbook that we had reviewed early on in January. As most of you may know, we did review our own internal processes, our pandemic response and subsequently did make the decision to stop our flights to China. I believe it was January 26.
Thank you for your question.
First, I'd like to say that Air Canada has spent more than $1.2 billion to refund travellers for their tickets since the start of the pandemic.
All travellers who had refundable tickets have been reimbursed according to the terms and conditions of the tariffs submitted by Air Canada to the Canadian Transportation Agency.
As for your question on full refunds, we have, from the outset, been complying with the order and statement of the Canadian Transportation Agency specifying that, when there are reasons beyond the carriers' control, travel credit vouchers were an acceptable solution as long as their timeline and terms and conditions were flexible. Air Canada has improved its voucher policy.
As for your question about refunding all travellers, as we have publicly stated on a number of occasions, if assistance is provided to air carriers and if that assistance is reasonable and proportional to the losses the carriers are incurring, we are fully prepared to issue refunds.
In 2016, you illegally laid off 1,800 Aveos employees. You then threatened to halt the purchase of 45 Airbus A220s, which are made in Mirabel, and to hold back plans to create a centre of excellence if the federal government did not change the law to accommodate you. Five years later, that centre of excellence still does not exist, and you cancelled 12 of the 45 aircraft that should have been ordered.
Now, Air Canada has received more than $500 million in wage subsidies. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, or IAMAW, has informed us that you are having your aircraft maintained in the United States and having the Boeing 737s converted in Great Britain, while unemployed Quebeckers could be doing that work.
Do you think that Air Canada should keep its promises and stop consistently ignoring Quebec workers in order to prove that it is a good corporate citizen before taking advantage of taxpayers' money?
There are many parts to your question. It sounds more like a statement than a question.
It also contains falsehoods, Mr. Barsalou-Duval.
Air Canada has always supported the aerospace industries of Quebec and Canada. We have bought many Q400, CRJ and CSeries aircraft. Air Canada's order was critical to the survival of the program, as Mr. Bellemare has said. It put the program back on its feet.
As for the centre of excellence in Quebec, that was an agreement that we made with the Quebec government, and we will honour it. We have always said that these aircraft would be maintained in Quebec. I will also add that we have transferred our maintenance operations to Quebec. All of Air Canada's single-aisle planes are now maintained in Trois-Rivières, ensuring nearly 350 well-paying jobs.
Once again, your question has many aspects to it.
So I will take this opportunity to complete what my colleague said during his presentation.
Saying that a merger between Air Canada and Air Transat in the transatlantic market would be like merging Bell and Rogers is inaccurate and misleading. There are much larger companies in that market than Air Canada and Air Transat combined, such as WestJet's partners, companies like Air France and KLM, which have leading positions at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Schiphol, two of Europe's biggest hubs that serve all of Europe that offer many options to Canadian and Quebec passengers.
With respect to the approval of the transaction, over the past 18 months, Transport Canada has gone through a thorough consultation process, seeking the views of the public, consumer groups, airports, provincial and municipal governments, as well as suppliers. We are therefore awaiting its public interest analysis. We look forward to its decision and are confident that the transaction will benefit consumers and all stakeholders.
As Mr. Eustache said, it's the best choice for all stakeholders, customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, and for the community.
As far as jobs go, to go back to your point, in my opinion, this transaction will allow us to do more maintenance in Quebec. We have made that commitment.
Also, the unions representing Air Transat and Air Canada employees supported this transaction, because a carrier of this calibre will be able to compete more effectively with major US and European carriers. It will create and keep jobs at home.
I'd like to welcome the representatives from both Air Canada and WestJet to our committee today. I have a great deal of respect for both of your companies and I'm certainly looking forward to flying your airlines a lot more in the future as we come out of this pandemic.
My question is for both groups of witnesses.
On Tuesday, the committee heard testimony that because of all the challenges facing the aviation sector, it may take anywhere from five to seven years for air travel to recover. I found this to be very surprising since the vaccine rollout is to be completed by the end of this year.
Are the witnesses from Air Canada and WestJet expecting air travel recovery to take five to seven years, or are you expecting the timeline to be somewhat shorter than that?
Thank you, Mr. Kram, for your words and thank to your constituents for making us the number one airline in Saskatchewan year over year.
If you had asked us in mid-March last year where would we be on February 4, 2021, it would not be where we are today.
Lots of people are throwing out a lot of prognostications, but you nailed it. Without a better understanding of what the operational realities will be for our company, it's really difficult to say, and that's why we're pushing so hard for a safe restart plan, and to understand how the government looks at vaccines and at testing.
You raised the issue of vaccines. We're watching very carefully and engaging very constructively with the government because we need to understand the correlation between vaccination and mobility for Canadians.
The retired couple who live in your constituency and who haven't seen their grandkids in a year, do they expect they'll be able to see them after they're vaccinated? Does vaccination green-light you to travel this country? What is an acceptable vaccine rate that would allow for such travel? These are the key questions. I think we would recommend that in your report you ask public health officials for clarity for public health purposes, not for business purposes.
It's that certainty and reassurance that I think all of us want and seek, but I think until we have more certainty around vaccines and what they mean for the critical travel and tourism sector, it's difficult to answer your question. It's safe to say that it will take years, but we can start here in Canada this summer.
That's a very good question and it's really at the heart of our discussions currently.
I do want to stress that when we did cease services to many of our Atlantic Canadian cities, we did brief the premiers of those four provinces in advance, and we did so as transparently as possible.
Obviously, I don't speak for them, but the feedback in those communities was, obviously, devastating. We can think about Gander, and we can think about Sydney.
WestJet investments fundamentally altered the affordability and connectivity to these communities in that region. People in that region remember what it was like before WestJet brought low fares and competition. That competition has really brought air travel to life in Atlantic Canada.
In terms of restoring routes, the policies put in place by the provincial governments there—and they are under no illusions about this, and I don't mean this in a combative way—are not designed to bring our investments there and to bring our guests there. It's the opposite. We understand that. We very reluctantly decided to cease services up to 80% and to cancel service to some cities.
Mr. Rogers, I think it really depends again on the operating environment that the premiers and the and the governments want to implement, and if we can have a domestic framework in queue to develop in this country under which your premier and members of your provincial caucus can say that they will be comfortable with Canadians visiting Newfoundland and Labrador when the COVID level is x, or when this percentage of the population is vaccinated.
I think if we get some certainty or a safe plan around that, it's what's going to be the biggest factor, but I also want to assure you that serving and investing in communities is not something the government has to extract from us. It's something we love doing and want to do.
I would say that in our case, reducing flights in many provinces and stations in Atlantic Canada was a difficult decision to make.
We have been operating in certain of these markets for 75 years, dating from the time of Trans-Canada airline. Contrary to our competitor, we are trying to keep at least one station in each province to keep provinces linked to our network.
I would say with regard to re-establishing routes that I have had many discussions on that. We have talked to mayors and we have talked to the premier, and we had exchanges with them on the impact and on how we can work together going forward, but I guess fundamentally to restore services, we need passengers. There has to be demand to have a service.
The policies in place, particularly in Atlantic Canada, have had a devastating impact on the number of passengers. That's why we need to have a conversation and a path forward for a national reopening of travel at least within Canada first.
Mr. Rheault, earlier, in response to one of my questions, you said that one of my statements was false. We may not have time today to explore what was false in what I said, but if you could report back to the committee about it, that would be a good thing. It would help us to get the right information from your perspective.
Earlier, I asked you a question about jobs. I did not feel you were very confident about jobs. We know that the European Commission has twice suspended its analysis of the transaction between Air Transat and Air Canada due to a lack of cooperation on your part. According to the sale agreement, Air Canada has the final word on any major operational decisions. The transaction has been on the table for almost two years. That means Air Transat's management have had their hands tied for two years.
It's well known that Air Transat is having financial difficulties, and we learned in the Air Transat proxy circular on the new sale to Air Canada, that apparently Air Canada refused a credit facility for Air Transat on two occasions, May 6 and August 7, 2020.
I'd like to know what Air Canada's strategy is. Is it to weaken Air Transat to the point of bankruptcy so that it doesn't have to spend $200 million to eliminate a competitor?
I have to say that Air Canada has always worked cooperatively with regulators and is looking forward to the government's decision on this transaction.
It is a strategic decision for us, and it's very important that this transaction go through to allow both companies to move forward together, to save jobs and to create a world champion based here in Quebec. It's a source of pride, and we are convinced that, together, the two companies will form one incredible carrier that will allow us to rebuild our Montreal hub, among other things.
Some big names in Quebec society supported this transaction, Mr. Barsalou-Duval. They recognize the economic impact for the community. The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and the Fonds de solidarité de la Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec voted in favour—
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I have a couple more questions for Mr. Rheault regarding regional routes. It's a topic that is very pertinent to the riding I represent in northwest B.C. Currently Air Canada has suspended service out of Prince Rupert, a community that depends very much on your scheduled passenger service.
One of the things we've heard from communities is a real concern around the resumption of service. When services resumed in Smithers, which is another regional route in northwest B.C., Air Canada offered flights online and when there weren't enough bookings, they cancelled those flights. We had a couple of rounds of that and it undermined the communities' confidence that those scheduled flights would come back.
I am wondering if you can commit to working with communities like Prince Rupert to ensure that when there are the passenger volumes, the resumption of service is as smooth as possible and that we avoid any unnecessary cancellations, understanding that it's really difficult for the community to purchase flights online and then have those flights cancelled and not receive refunds. Is that a commitment you can make to communities?
Yes, it does answer it. Thank you.
Mr. Gibbons, I hear what you're saying too. At one of our last meetings, I mentioned the mental health of a lot of the employees. We had a stack of letters that I brought up last time. My heart goes out to the many people, not just in your industry but across Canada, who are struggling greatly right now. We want to make sure they're being looked after. I'm sure that within your company you're doing everything you can to make sure that your people who are feeling added stress and having some mental health issues are getting looked after.
With respect to the start-up plan, there have to be a lot of aircraft sitting around right now. I'm not an aircraft mechanic, but someone mentioned to me that until there is a start-up plan to get going, it is harmful for planes to be just sitting around. How long can they sit on tarmacs not be used before it becomes an issue? Also, does it take a while to get them recertified once there is a restart?
I'll start with Mr. Gibbons.
Thank you for your question, Mr. El-Khoury.
Allow me to respond in English.
If I heard you correctly, Mr. El-Khoury, there were two questions.
Question one was that you appreciate our refund policy. Thank you very much for those words.
The distinction between guest cancellations and carrier cancellations is a really important one. It's a distinction that exists in the United States and the United Kingdom, which are jurisdictions that the consumer advocates are pointing toward. I want to make that distinction. It is an important one that doesn't get a lot of remarks in the public sphere, but it is a critical distinction in how the government and your committee look at the issue.
I missed in the translation what you were asking about with respect to whether the refunds were making things difficult. I didn't quite get that, so if I could get clarity—