Sunday, April 18

Nationalize Air Transat

The government of Quebec has a golden opportunity to prove, in the interest of the nation it leads, that its economic nationalism is not just a slogan. Because we now know: Air Canada will not take control of Air Transat, in particular because the European competition authorities would not have approved the transaction – like the Canadian ones, which, it should be remembered, did not recommend it.

Let us underline here, moreover, the irresponsibility and the cynicism of the federal government which, in the wake of its unforgivable inaction in matters of support to the aerospace and air transport sectors, for its part could not help but give the green light to the acquisition, too impatient to see another flagship of Quebec Inc., in this case the only major French-speaking airline in Canada, swallowed up by a Canadian competitor of English-speaking culture.

We must draw the obvious conclusion from this interminable saga: the case of Transat represents just one more iteration of the open secret of the non-viability of airlines in times of severe turbulence. We are witnessing it once again and we will witness it again during the next and inevitable crisis, when it will once again be necessary to save the lame ducks of aviation from bankruptcy while forcing them, moreover, to reimburse consumers, these turkeys of the farce which subsidize them in a loop.

Since the spring of 2020, more than 160 billion US dollars in aid of all types have been granted by states around the world to airlines. In the United States, the bill is over $ 40 billion and will certainly get higher. In Europe, the latest reviews show more than 44 billion euros granted or in the process of being offered to giants such as the Lufthansa Group (9 billion pounds sterling), Air France-KLM (nearly 15 billion sterling), or IAG-British Airways (£ 2.5 billion).

In addition, as the attempted takeover of Transat has clearly shown, this crisis once again revealed and reinforced the oligopolistic, not to say monopolistic, tendencies of the industry on an international scale. . The three major global air transport alliances – Star Alliance, Sky Team and Oneworld – are superb manifestations of this which, while permitting certain rationalizations, ultimately induce an impoverishment of competition and upward pressure on prices.

In this context, the Transat file is an opportunity to be seized. Rather than supporting its takeover by Pierre Karl Péladeau, which would already be a much better outcome, but having to intervene again “urgently” in a few years, during the next turbulence, immediately stop socializing risks and losses while privatizing profits, then collectively take control of Transat through partial or complete nationalization, quite simply.

To the Cassandras who will inevitably rehash the old fallacy according to which the State is not a good manager, remember that in the airline industry as in many other sectors, the determining variable of economic efficiency is competition and not ownership structure. New Zealand (Air New-Zealand), Singapore (Singapore Airlines), Portugal (TAP), Latvia (Air Baltic), Estonia (Nordica), Greenland (Air Greenland), Finland (Finnair), Sweden, Denmark and Norway (Scandinavian Airlines) all control 50% or more of their national airline. We can also add to this list China Airlines, of which the Taiwanese State is the majority shareholder. If these little nations can, we can.

The entrepreneur Nicolas Duvernois, who will not be suspected of statism, also stressed that we must: “200 million for a company which came close to 3 billion in revenue in 2019, which has its head office in the city center. -City of Montreal, which just before the crisis had 5,000 employees, which had just been named the best airline in the world in the leisure category and which [demeure] a Quebec flagship, it is a deal mandatory to do for any government ”.

Indeed, the demand for economic nationalism worthy of the name, such as the inescapable and intimately linked issues of air service and the economic opening up of Quebec regions, then the revival of the tourism industry. The nationalization of Transat and the gradual transformation of its fleet would finally make it possible to imagine, in collaborative competition with innovative players such as the Coopérative de transport régional du Québec, sustainable solutions to these challenges, to which the intervention group formed by the Minister Bonnardel has still not proposed a structuring response.

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