Toronto StarClick for large version
Feb 05/ 02
Relaunch window narrowing quickly for Canada 3000
Key assets could be sold off or reclaimed within a few weeks
There are growing fears that time is running out for bankrupt Canada 3000 to get back into the air.
While former president Angus Kinnear has said he's committed to a May 23 startup — in time for the key summer season — he has yet to apply for an airline operating certificate or slots at Pearson International Airport, and may be running into problems with the powerful pilots union.
In fact, both Kinnear and Michel Leblanc, who is attempting to restart Montreal-based Royal Airlines, have gone into virtual stealth mode these days, continuing to shop around their business plans for their new airlines, but saying little publicly.
Former Canada 3000 employees are so concerned that about 50 of them endured brutal winds and blowing snow yesterday to hold a rally outside their old offices in support of Kinnear, who was reported to be in Ottawa.
"We just want to send a message to the government that (Kinnear's) got employees who are ready and willing to work, and he's got investors who are ready to put money into an industry that has taken a beating since Sept. 11," said unemployed flight attendant Anabela Santos.
"He's got all the key elements here. What he needs now is for the government to come in and make sure the Competition Bureau can move quickly" to protect any new airlines from undercutting by giant Air Canada.
Employees are fearful that key Canada 3000 assets — such as its offices and leased aircraft — are about to be sold off or returned to their owners, making it more difficult for Kinnear to get his new 10-aircraft airline going.
In fact, many of the leased Canada 3000 aircraft should be back with their owners within two weeks, a spokesperson for bankruptcy trustee PricewaterhouseCoopers says.
It's believed that Kinnear has most of the $50 million to $75 million he will need to relaunch the airline, given that creditors will demand cash for any services. But some pilots fear their powerful union could hurt the plan by balking at Kinnear's demands for wage reductions of up to $20,000.
"Angus has got to have his ducks in order this week (if he hopes to start in time for summer). One of the ducks that's not in order is having the pilots' union onside," said one former Canada 3000 pilot who spoke on condition his name not be used.
"If some people are saying this is an insulting contract compared to what we had, I can guarantee them that unemployment is a lot more insulting. A lot of guys just want to go back to work."
Captain Doug Walsh, chairman of the Airline Pilots Association, said he has met with Kinnear, but refused to discuss any details or concerns about the business plan.
Walsh remains hopeful the new airline will be up and running in time, but "there's a lot of work to be done."
Officials with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represented flight attendants at Canada 3000, also talked to Kinnear recently and said they will "do all it takes" to see Canada 3000 reborn.
"We were told it would have to be done quickly and it would have to be done soon," said one CUPE official. "They would have to start training crews in April to be ready on time."
Photo © Mark Abbott