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Airline Travel

Canada Announces Unprecedented Restrictions on International Travel

Starting today, Canada’s newest international travel restrictions take effect by introducing measures to prevent further introduction and transmission of COVID-19 and new variants of the virus into Canada.

The new rules on international travel are in addition to the multi-layered approach on COVID-19 already in place. The government and Canada’s airlines have agreed to suspend all flights to and from Mexico and Caribbean countries until April 30, 2021. This will be in effect as of January 31, 2021.

Following consultations with the federal government, Air Canada has agreed to suspend operations to 15 destinations beginning today until Friday, April 30. To help ensure Canadians are not stranded abroad, Air Canada plans to operate a number of one-way commercial flights from affected destinations after January 31 in order to return customers at the suspended destinations to Canada.

“Air Canada believes a collaborative approach with the Government of Canada involving all air carriers is the best means to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially given concerns around the variants of COVID- 19 and travel during the Spring Break period. Through consultation, we have established an approach that will allow us to achieve an orderly reduction in service to these destinations that minimizes the impact on our customers and will support important public health goals to manage COVID-19.  System-wide the incremental impact on Air Canada’s cash burn is not material given the already reduced levels of passenger traffic resulting from COVID-19 and travel restrictions,” said Calin Rovinescu, President and Chief Executive Officer at Air Canada.

The WestJet Group announced that both WestJet and Swoop would temporarily cease international flying to 14 sun destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean in response to a request from the Government of Canada.

“The government asked, and we agreed,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President, and CEO. “While we know that air travel is responsible for less than two percent of cases since the start of the crisis, and even less today, we recognize the Government of Canada’s ask is a precautionary measure. We also note that the overwhelming majority of quarantine exemptions, well over 90 percent, in fact, are connected to land borders and not air travel. We have responded to their request and will suspend service to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.”

Due to the nature of the flights offered by Air Transat, the carrier is suspending all scheduled flights until April 30. Air Transat will operate several dozen flights over the next two weeks to return its customers to Canada. Transat customers scheduled to return to the country between now and February 13 will keep their original flight, while customers whose flights are canceled will automatically be redirected to another Air Transat flight. Transat’s priority is to get everyone home.

“We are putting in place the measures requested by the Canadian government, including not traveling to the South. This forces us to temporarily suspend all our flights, including to Europe,” said Jean-Marc Eustache, President and Chief Executive Officer of Transat. “We will do everything we can to return our customers back to Canada. We obviously share the government’s objective to protect Canadians from COVID-19, including the new variants, and this is what all of our personnel have been doing in recent months, particularly onboard our aircraft, with a comprehensive program of adapted sanitary measures.”

Further, effective midnight (11:59 PM EST) February 3, 2021, in addition to proof of a negative pre-departure test, Transport Canada will expand the existing international flight restrictions which funnel scheduled international commercial passenger flights into four Canadian airports: Montréal-Trudeau International Airport, Toronto Pearson International Airport, Calgary International Airport, and Vancouver International Airport. The new restrictions will include scheduled commercial passenger flights arriving from the United States, Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, which were exempted from the previous restriction. Private/business and charter flights from all countries will also be required to land at the four airports. Flights from Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and cargo-only flights will remain exempt.

As soon as possible in the coming weeks, all air travelers arriving in Canada, with very limited exceptions, must reserve a room in a Government of Canada-approved hotel for three nights at their own cost, and take a COVID-19 molecular test on arrival at their own cost. More details will be available in the coming days.

The Government of Canada will introduce a 72-hour pre-arrival testing requirement (molecular test) for travelers seeking entry in land mode, with limited exceptions such as commercial truckers. In addition, Canada continues to collaborate with partners in the United States to strengthen our border measures and keep our countries safe.

To ensure travelers’ awareness and compliance with quarantine requirements, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is working with security companies to help complete compliance checks for travelers arriving in Canada. Employees of these companies were trained by PHAC and authorized as Screening Officers under the Quarantine Act. These Screening Officers will visit travelers’ quarantine locations to establish contact, confirm identity and confirm that travellers are at the place of quarantine they identified upon entry into Canada. These new officers will conduct visits in 35 cities across the country, starting in Montréal and Toronto.

Transport Canada is online at www.tc.gc.ca. For airline details, visit AirCanada.com, AirTransat.com, FlySwoop.com, or WestJet.com.

Image: Justin Hu on Unsplash

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