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Air Transat CEO Jean-Marc Eustache takes part in a news conference in Montreal, on Aug. 23, 2019.

Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press

Transat AT Inc. has promoted Annick Guérard to the chief executive officer’s job, replacing founder and CEO Jean-Marc Eustache.

The succession comes into effect Thursday as the leisure airline remains grounded during the pandemic and it follows the failed sale of the company to Air Canada .

Ms. Guérard, 50, has been Transat’s chief operating officer since 2017 and responsible for running the entire company with the exception of the hotel business. She began her career at the Montreal-based travel and airline company in 2002 as a director of strategy and customer service. Previously, she was a consultant in operations management and logistics with a civil engineering degree from Polytechnique Montréal, according to her LinkedIn profile.

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Neither Ms. Guérard nor Mr. Eustache were available for interviews, a Transat spokesman said.

Ms. Guérard takes charge of the company as it prepares to restart service on July 29. Transat recently received a bailout package from the federal government worth as much as $700-million. The aid will allow Transat to provide customer refunds and stay afloat while offering the government the chance to buy up to 20 per cent of the company.

Benoit Poirier, a stock analyst at Desjardins Securities, said because Transat is grounded, the company will not see any lift from the recovery in travel in the summer.

“While we are encouraged by the global vaccine rollout, recall that [Transat’s] operations are temporarily suspended ... due to continued travel restrictions in Canada and in the destinations it serves,” Mr. Poirier said. “We therefore do not believe the company will be able to participate in the recovery this summer.”

Mr. Eustache, 73, is also retiring from his board chairman position, and will be replaced by Raymond Bachand, a director. Ms. Guérard will join the board of directors.

“I leave the company in the good hands of Annick Guérard, who has my full confidence as well as that of the rest of the management team and the board of directors,” Mr. Eustache, who co-founded the company in 1987, said in a statement. “I have no doubt that, under her leadership, Transat will accomplish great things and once again become a formidable competitor admired by all.”

Transat employed 772 people as of April 28. In good times, the company was Canada’s third-biggest airline with 5,000 people and a fleet of about 40 jets flying to 60 holiday destinations in 20 countries. Transat offers airfares and tour packages to sun destinations in the Caribbean and Europe.

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Air Canada and Transat agreed on a sale of Transat worth $720-million in 2019, a deal that was slashed in value to $180-million because of the pandemic. The companies agreed to abandon the deal in April because of antitrust hurdles posed by the European competition watchdog.

In 2018, Transat said it planned to own 5,000 hotel rooms in Mexico and Caribbean by 2025. Transat put on hold its development of a Mexican beach resort during the Air Canada takeover process, and has hinted it would abandon the project altogether. Christophe Hennebelle, a Transat spokesman, said the company is reviewing its options for the hotel plan and a decision could be made in the coming weeks.

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