Feds Say "Non" To Air Canada Language Plea

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Air Canada contends the country's language laws are hurting its ability to compete with budget-priced rivals. Representatives of the struggling airline, which recently emerged from court-ordered bankruptcy restructuring, appeared before a House of Commons committee pleading for relaxation of rules that force it to comply with the Official Languages Act, a law that ensures service in French and English. Air Canada claims the rule, which doesn't apply to competitors like WestJet and Jetsgo, costs it $140 million (Canadian) a year in language training. But instead of a sympathetic ear, the airline got a tongue-lashing ... in both official languages. One committee member complained that he was bumped to an executive-class seat but the flight attendant up front couldn't speak French. Another called the presentation "deplorable," while others ripped the airline's choice of French Canadian singer Celine Dion as the centerpiece of a new ad campaign. The bilingual rule for Air Canada was imposed when it took over Canadian Airlines and commanded 95 percent of the market. Spokesman Duncan Dee said that since the airline has lost more than a third of its market since then, the budget carriers should either be forced to comply with the language laws or the rules should be relaxed for Air Canada.