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Air Canada reports a wider loss as COVID-19 restrictions limit travel

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FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Air Canada airplanes are pictured at Vancouver's international airport in Richmond,
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(Reuters) -Air Canada on Friday reported its fifth straight quarterly loss as tough government restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 weighed on air travel and drove the company to secure a C$5.9 billion ($4.84 billion) government aid package.

Speaking on an investor call, Air Canada executives said they assume the country's travel restrictions - which have been more strict than those implemented in neighboring United States - will ease somewhat by the fourth quarter.

Once that happens, they said travel patterns should be similar to those in the United States, where a fast vaccine rollout and falling numbers of COVID-19 cases have driven a surge in travel demand.

Meanwhile, the Montreal-based airline is focusing on cargo and domestic flights while slashing capacity for international travel and cutting costs.

Air Canada projects a net cash burn of between $13 million and $15 million per day in the second quarter of 2021.

Operating revenue fell to $729 million in the first quarter from $3.72 billion a year earlier.

Canada's largest carrier reported a loss of C$1.30 billion, compared with C$1.05 billion. Its shares rose 1.3% in early trading.

Hopes that travel restrictions would loosen in time for the peak summer travel season are fading as Canada grapples with a third wave of coronavirus infections.

Only Canadian citizens, residents and essential workers can enter the country. Those entering must complete a 14-day quarantine, and people entering by air must spend up to three days of the quarantine in a hotel, a measure Chief Executive Michael Rousseau called on the government to remove.

"The current mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals has proven ineffective. It should be eliminated," he told investors.

($1 = 1.2184 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting By Allison Lampert, Shreyasee Raj, Tracy Rucinski; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli and Nick Zieminski)