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Air Canada employees who do not get vaccinated face unpaid leave and possible termination, the airline said.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

More than 800 Air Canada employees are suspended without pay for not getting fully vaccinated against COVID-19, in accordance with government and airline rules.

Michael Rousseau, chief executive officer of Montreal-based Air Canada, said on Tuesday almost all the airline’s 27,000 pilots, flight attendants and other employees have had both shots. “Our employees have done their part, with now over 96 per cent fully vaccinated,” Mr. Rousseau said. “The employees who are not vaccinated or do not have a medical or other permitted exemptions have been put on unpaid leave.”

Employees of Air Canada and other Canadian airlines must be fully vaccinated by Oct. 30 or face layoff and possible firing, according to rules imposed by the federal government.

WestJet suspends nearly 300 employees not fully vaccinated for COVID-19

WestJet Airlines Ltd. said on Monday almost 300 of its 7,300 employees are suspended for not getting both immunizations, which reduce the chances of becoming seriously ill from the virus that has killed about 29,000 people in Canada since the onset of the pandemic in March, 2020.

Leisure airline Transat AT Inc. suspended 18 people on Nov. 1 for not getting the shots, most of them flight attendants, said Christophe Hennebelle, a spokesman for the airline that employs 2,000.

Air Canada employees who do not get vaccinated face unpaid leave and possible termination, the airline said. The number suspended could change as people get their shots, said Peter Fitzpatrick, an Air Canada spokesman.

The government requires airline and railway passengers to show proof of vaccination as of Oct. 30. Railway employees are also required to be vaccinated. The moves are intended to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and safely reopen travel and borders. Canada’s borders are open to fully vaccinated travellers, but they must also provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before boarding the flight or crossing the land border.

Acceptable tests include the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test but not rapid antigen results.

Air Canada’s Mr. Rousseau said the airline is committed to implementing the measures intended to protect the health and safety of employees and travellers. “We do believe, however, that with the combination of the new travel policy and high vaccination rates for the general public, the predeparture PCR test is unnecessary and we will continue to advocate for its elimination,” he said on a conference call with analysts to discuss the airline’s third-quarter financial results.

Air Canada’s loss narrowed in the three months ending on Sept. 30 as the recovery in seat sales gained speed amid the reopening of routes.

Air Canada said it lost $640-million or $1.79 a share in the three months ending Sept. 30, compared with a loss of $685-million or $2.31 in the year-ago quarter. Operating revenue nearly tripled to $2.1-billion as the airline resumed some service cut in the pandemic. The results beat analyst expectations.

Seat capacity rose by 87 per cent from the same period in 2020 but is down by 66 per cent from 2019. “Although the pandemic continues to impact our industry the results from the quarter demonstrate our airline is making great progress and is now in recovery mode,” Mr. Rousseau said.

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