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Air Canada, WestJet could be set for coronavirus help from Canada

May 12, 2020
3 min read
Air Canada, WestJet could be set for coronavirus help from Canada
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The Canadian government is offering more support to Air Canada and WestJet with a new loan program aimed at large companies hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

Dubbed the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), Canada will provide loans starting at 60 million Canadian dollars ($42 million) to companies with annual revenues of at least CA$300 million, according to a Monday statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's office.

Air Canada and WestJet could qualify for the new aid funds. Smaller carriers, like Air Transat and Porter Airlines, are assessing whether they qualify, though they also have access to other Canadian government funding sources to help them bridge the crisis.

Get Coronavirus travel updates. Stay on top of industry impacts, flight cancellations, and more.

The aid package in Canada is similar to the $25 billion in loans available to U.S. airlines under the country's $2 trillion coronavirus aid package, known as the CARES Act. While separate from the payroll assistance carriers have already accessed, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, United Airlines and others have applied for funds from the U.S. Treasury.

Airlines taking assistance would also face similar strings on both sides of the border. These include barring dividend payments and stock buybacks, or using funds for executive pay.

The one leg up that Canadian carriers appear to have is an absence of minimum schedule requirements. These rules in the CARES Act have forced U.S. airlines to fly nearly empty planes, further straining their balance sheets and pumping unneeded carbon into the air.

Without a requirement to fly unnecessary flights and by an odd twist of fate, Vancouver-based seaplane operator Harbour Air is due to fly more flights than either Air Canada or WestJet in May, according to Cirium schedules. In a normal month, Harbour flies less than a fifth the number of flights of either larger carrier.

Related: Air Canada suspends all US flights, likely for first time in nearly 80 years

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TORONTO, ON - APRIL 01: Grounded Air Canada planes are seen at Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 1, 2020 in Toronto, Canada. Air Canada announced it would temporarily lay off over 15,000 employees and reduce activity by up to 90 percent due to the coronavirus. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Grounded Air Canada planes at Toronto Pearson airport in April 2020. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

In addition, Air Canada, Porter and WestJet have suspended all of their flights to the U.S.

WestJet will review the new LEEFF program before deciding on "next steps," spokesperson Lauren Stewart told TPG.

Related: Porter Airlines to suspend flights until at least June

Porter is assessing whether it qualifies for the LEEFF funds before it will evaluate whether to take advantage of the program, spokesperson Brad Cicero said.

An Air Canada spokesperson did not immediately respond with comment.

Air Canada, Air Transat, Porter and WestJet have all accepted payroll support from the Canadian government's emergency wage subsidy program.

Related: First look onboard Air Canada’s new Airbus A220

Featured image by Getty Images

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees