Air Canada CEO sees 'darkest period' in aviation history

MONTREAL — Canada’s largest airline on Monday announced a billion-dollar loss and announced mandatory temperature checks for customers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re now living through the darkest period ever in the history of commercial aviation, significantly worse than 9/11, SARS and the 2008 financial crisis,” CEO Calin Rovinescu said on a conference call with analysts Monday.

The U.S.-Canada border remains closed to all nonessential travel.

Since mid-March, the airline has slashed its flight schedule by more than 90% and grounded more than 200 aircraft, cutting service internationally to just five airports. The company burned $22 million Canadian (US$16 million) in cash per day in March.

Air Canada said it lost $1.05 billion Canadian (US$748 million) in its first quarter, compared with a profit of $345 million in the same quarter last year as governments imposed travel restrictions around the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The airline said remaining flights will be subject to an infrared temperature check at all airports. It already requires customers to wear face coverings.

The airline also said customer in economy class won't be required to sit immediately next to another. Hand sanitizer will also be distributed.

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