Air transport | The end of an aid program hits Pascan Aviation

The end of a government program aimed at financially supporting regional air carriers quickly has consequences: Pascan Aviation, one of the main players in the sector, is preparing a reduction in service, layoffs and a closure of its secondary base in Quebec.

A base allows an airline to count on flight crew on site permanently. At Jean-Lesage international airport, changes are planned for November 27, according to an internal memo sent to Pascan employees that The Press was able to consult.

“We recognize the significant impact this closure will have on your professional and personal arrangements,” the company explains. Our decision was not taken lightly and reflects a strategy to align with our operational requirements and long-term goals. »

However, this does not mean the cessation of air service to Quebec. There will, however, be a “refocusing” of resources towards Saint-Hubert, on the South Shore of Montreal, where Pascan is located, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), affiliated with the FTQ.

“When there were unforeseen events, it was easier by having people [des agents de bord et d’autres employés] in Quebec to meet demand,” said Jessé Vigneault, president of the Pascan Flight Attendants Union, in a telephone interview.

It was not possible to contact the air carrier at the time of writing. In a message, its co-founder, Yani Gagnon, however clarified that the closure of the base would not have “an impact on our operations in Quebec in terms of service”.

Important help

All those involved blame the turn of events on the end of the Aid Program for the maintenance of essential regional air services. This measure was renewed thanks to an envelope of 10 million announced by the Legault government in its budget tabled last March. Pascan was among the beneficiaries of this measure.

However, the program ended on September 30. Implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, it allowed eligible carriers to absorb operating deficits and continue to offer routes in regions such as Nord-du-Québec, Baie-James, Côte- North and Gaspésie.

“This announcement from the government also comes at the least busy time of the year when the level of our reservations will be […] in a significant decline, writes Pascan, in a letter sent to his employees on November 9. This unfortunately forces us to review our operations to ensure the sustainability of our activities in this new environment. »

The missive does not specify which routes would possibly be affected by a reduction in the “number of scheduled flights”.

According to this document, layoff letters could be sent this Wednesday to the affected employees. CUPE believes that about ten of its members, who represent almost half of flight attendants, could lose their livelihood. According to the Quebec Business Registrar, Pascan’s workforce varies between 100 and 250 employees.

Hard to swallow

The MP for Îles-de-la-Madeleine and PQ transport spokesperson Joël Arseneau describes the Legault government’s decision to end the program without coming up with an alternative solution as “incomprehensible”. It should have been announced in the economic update of November 7, says Mr. Arseneau.

“The government let people believe that this was going to be resolved,” he said. But we abandon them [les transporteurs] without warning. We don’t really have an alternative, either from the point of view of the companies or the affected communities. »

Mr. Vigneault is of the same opinion.

CUPE and Mr. Arseneau believe that Pascan’s decision demonstrates the limits of the Regional Action Support Program (PAAR) – the $500 tickets – unveiled with great fanfare by the Legault government in April 2022.

“If the objective was to increase ridership and stabilize regional services, it is clear that it is a failure,” believes the PQ MP.

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    Pascan offers daily flights to around twenty municipalities in Quebec, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.

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