Airlines bid to fix 'inadequacies' in Canada
By WONG JOON SAN
A TASK force of Asian and Canadian airline officials will be set up to tackle the ''inadequacies'' they all face in Canada, says Canadian Transport Minister Jean Corbeil.
Participants in the Asian Pacific trade and transport forum, a group working on developing trade between Canada and Asia, had agreed to co-ordinate the establishing of the task force, Mr Corbeil said in Hongkong yesterday.
The task force will work with a special Canadian inter-departmental committee.
The forum - comprising representatives of eight Asian airlines, Vancouver airport, Canadian and British Columbia governments and Air Canada and Canadian Airlines International - concluded its two-day meeting yesterday.
The group, which first met in 1991, will meet again in June in Vancouver.
Mr Corbeil said he had personally taken responsibility to form the inter-departmental committee, which includes officials of Canadian transport, tourism, immigration and customs departments.
This was one of the steps being taken to promote Vancouver as the air transportation gateway to North America, he said.
Bilateral agreements being negotiated between the United States and Canada would open up many more destinations for Asian travellers, he added.
Regarding complaints by Cathay Pacific Airways against Canada's intention to fine airlines for allowing bogus refugees on board flights to Vancouver, Mr Corbeil said the aim was to make airlines ensure that passengers had proper documents.
''We never intended to punish the airlines that are doing their work,'' he said.
However, authorities realised there could be incidents of people boarding the airline and destroying the papers, a point that would be dealt by the task force, he said.
The task force would look into a proposal that there should be a simplified system for passengers transferring from Vancouver to enable them to clear customs and immigrations at the last destination, he added.
Mr Corbeil said Canada was investing C$360 million (about HK$2.18 billion) for another runway in Vancouver and to upgrade the airport with state-of-the-art facilities.
Regarding speculation of a merger of Canadian Airlines and Air Canada, he said the matter had been put aside as Canadian Airlines had taken measures to restructure its balance sheet and profitability.
''One aspect we were happy is that the employees of Canadian Airlines have agreed through payroll deduction from their salaries to invest $200 million in the airline as equity over the next three years,'' he said.
The airline, which was losing about $500,000 a day, is to present its restructuring plans to creditors next week.
''And if their plan is accepted, they look forward to coming to a profitable situation in 1993 or 1994,'' Mr Corbeil said.