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Transport minister says feds not asking airlines to cut back flights amid delays

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. In a statement to CTV News on Tuesday, 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. The response follows a tweet by Duncan Dee, a former chief operating officer at Air Canada, that states he was informed that airlines had been asked to reduce their schedules to “assist with the fed gov-created mess at the airport.”

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. WestJet told CTV News on Tuesday that it remains “extremely concerned” with the state of services provided by government agencies at air borders and security screening points.

“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.”

More details to come…

With files from CTV News’ Brooklyn Neustaeter and Kevin Gallagher.