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Feds not asking airlines to cut back flights: Canada’s Transport Minister

Ottawa, May 18: Canada’s transport minister is dismissing claims that the federal government asked airlines to reduce their schedules and cancel flights to ease recent travel delays.

Minister Omar Alghabra’s office acknowledged the current situation at Canadian airports is “frustrating” and that the federal government is working on ways to help resolve it. However, he said that doesn’t include a direct callout to airlines to cut back services.

“We are working very closely with [Canadian Air Transport Security Authority] to ensure staffing issues are being dealt with as quickly as possible. That being said, we can confirm that our Government has never asked, and will not be asking, airlines to cut back on their flight schedules,” the statement reads.

He goes on to argue that Ottawa has “completely lost the plot.” As countries around the world look to reopen travel and tourism, he said Canada is “looking to shut it down.”

In recent weeks, multiple airports have reported extremely long lines at airport security and border screening checkpoints, while passengers say they are being forced to wait for hours — and sometimes missing their flights.

“Our schedules are built months in advance to best serve our guests and stimulate the recovery of our nation. We would reject any request to reduce flights based on lack of government resourcing,” a statement reads.

“This is an urgent issue that requires immediate improvement and we remain focused on resolving the matter directly with the federal government, while working collaboratively with our airport partners.”

Alghabra told reporters last week that delays may also be caused by travellers getting re-accustomed to airport processes after being grounded for two years due to the pandemic.

“Taking out the laptops, taking out the fluids — all that adds 10 seconds here, 15 seconds there,” he said.

The minister added that the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) used to rely on a six-month timeframe as it relates to labour allocation and volume predictions, which has been condensed to 72 to 48 hours.

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