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CUPE is asking Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to stop Air Canada from pledging its landing slots to a group of private lenders.

The landing slots - including some at Heathrow Airport in London - are the airline’s crown jewels, says CUPE Air Canada Component president Katherine Thompson. “Once they’re sold, they can’t be bought back.”

Reuters reports that Air Canada is seeking a $600 million loan from a group of private financiers and the federal government. To back that loan, the company wants to use the landing slots as part of the collateral.

But Thompson said the government should provide the entire loan instead. That way Canada would still control the landing slots if the airline failed or filed for bankruptcy protection.

The union also proposed guaranteeing only the government’s portion of the loan with the landing slots.

“Without these slots, Canada would no longer be capable of supporting an international carrier,” Thompson said.