North

Summit Air says federal support will allow it to bring back recently laid-off employees

Yellowknife-headquartered airline Summit Air says adopting the government of Canada’s Employee Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program will allow it to bring back employees it recently laid off due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month the airline announced that 45 of its 170 employees would be laid off

A Twin Otter operated by Summit Air. The Yellowknife-based airline announced on March 27 that it would lay off 45 of its approximately 170 employees due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Summit Air)

Yellowknife-headquartered airline Summit Air says federal support will allow it to bring back employees it recently laid off due to the economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a Tuesday press release, Summit Air said adopting the government of Canada's Employee Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program will also help it "maintain employment levels over the next three months."

The wage support program is designed to discourage companies from laying off workers and to encourage employers who already have laid off workers to put them back on the payroll.

On March 27, the airline announced that 45 of its 170 employees would be leaving on "temporary involuntary leaves." The layoffs impacted all aspects of the business, including management, flight crews, administration and mechanics.

The press release quotes Lane Zirnhelt, chief operating officer of Summit Aviation Group, as saying without the program, the airline would have had to consider further layoffs.

"This approach allows us to take care of our people and be prepared for an eventual recovery. We appreciate the flexibility demonstrated by our employee team," said Zirnhelt in the release.

The airline has been implementing cost-saving measures since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including "delaying capital projects [and] moving contractor or contracted work in-house," according to the release.

The release states that the airline has been working with customers to find alternative solutions that allow for crews to operate in safe environments. The airline also said it has been working with its clients to provide ways to transport passengers safely, something it said will be easier to do now that it can hire back its employees.

"With all our employees available, we can be more responsive to our clients' needs, which we hope will lead to more opportunities,"said Zirnhelt.

The release also quotes Myles Cane, vice president of operations for Summit Air, as saying the airline has added new scheduled charter flights in recent weeks to help "northern customers adapt to the new COVID-19 transportation realities and reduced frequencies on scheduled routes provided by national carriers."

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