Canadians Permitted Entry Into US By Air Creates Media Controversy

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

While US citizens are prohibited from travelling to Canada for leisure purposes, using any means of transportation, a US policy bans non-essential entry at land borders only, and does not prohibit incoming leisure arrivals from Canada by air.

This puts in question whether Canadians can (or should) fly to the United States for leisure purposes.

On its website, US Embassy & Consulates in Canada states that On 14AUG, the US and Canada announced "a mutual agreement to extend the limitation of non-essential travel at our shared land ports of entry through 21SEP."

In a Q&A response further down, it clearly states that the prohibition on leisure travel across the border "does not apply to entry into the United States from Canada via air, rail, or sea travel at this time."

The Canadian government still has a global travel advisory in effect, urging citizens to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada until further notice. All incoming arrivals also need to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon their return from abroad. 

Several health experts have come out criticizing Air Canada for promoting flights to the United States. Both AC and WS currently offer flights south of the border.

In one Global News article, Dr. Craig Janne, associate professor of immunology, microbiology, and infectious diseases at the University of Alberta, has said, “I think Air Canada is within their rights to advertise legal travel, but they need to be upfront and say there’s an increased risk of infection in many U.S. destinations."

Global News reports a recording on the airline’s customer booking telephone line plays the following message:

“Are you eager to reunite with friends and relatives in the U.S? Did you know that Canadians are permitted to travel by air to or from the U.S. for leisure or business? Review our step-by-step guide available on to see what to expect while travelling.”

The message has since been replaced with a more general one saying, "Air Canada is ready to take off further with over 80 destinations this summer. See our current and upcoming destinations and be inspired by where we can take you by visiting" 

Open Jaw reached out to Air Canada for a statement regarding the perceived loophole in the US entry guidelines.

Despite government restrictions globally, Air Canada has continued to operate a basic schedule, transporting vital cargo across the border (namely PPE equipment and medical goods, essential machinery and perishable foods), facilitating required business travel and enabling family reunifications, said AC spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick. The airline also conducted an extensive repatriation project in the first months of the pandemic.  

"The government recognizing people and goods still need to travel for the reasons discussed, deliberately made an exception and allowed transborder air travel to continue. There have been many stories in the media of the hardship the transborder restrictions have caused families by separating them and we are helping solve these problems by giving people travel options to reunite," Fitzpatrick says. 

"We are therefore operating but only after putting in place extensive protective measures, all of which the government has since recognized as effective and adopted with last week's Flight Plan document. We have been very responsible and, as we have also said, we advocate a science-based approach to safely reopening Canada for travel."

The question is whether a commercial air carrier is responsible for policing consumer decisions to travel to a destination. Would the same level of scrutiny be applied to any other service provider?

Open Jaw asked Retail Analyst, Rocky Racco, CEO of TTI Travel, whether it is appropriate to expect the airlines to police consumer behaviour. He noted that travel companies have done a lot to safeguard the traveller amid the viral pandemic.

“The airlines have an obligation to provide lift, an essential service. Within that context, they have invested heavily in providing a safe experience for the traveller and as such have more leeway in promoting travel to a broader audience,” he told Open Jaw.

Racco noted airlines, airports and other travel providers have gone to great lengths in implementing health and safety measures and protocols that aim to provide the travelling public with a safe environment.

“It has become evident that air travel is not an ‘at-risk’ behaviour, and I extend a kudos to all travel partners for investing in public safety,” he said.

As the airline continues to ramp up its schedule, Fitzpatrick highlights Air Canada's dedication to continuing operations in the safest manner possible.

"As a responsible corporation, Air Canada has put in place industry-leading biosafety measures to protect customers and employees travelling with us. As part of this, we were one of the first carriers to implement mandatory temperature checks of customers prior to boarding and we required all customers to wear facial coverings before this was law. As well, we apply screening questions prior to boarding to determine customers are fit for travel," he said. 

Click here for more information on Air Canada's health and safety measures.

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.


ElaineC - August 21, 2020 @ 14:56
I think they (US & CA) want to monitor & control who comes in and goes out! Driving across borders won't give a true count, although I also believe there are ways to get across the border bypassing the check points.

Richard - August 21, 2020 @ 12:08
I concur with the above comments.. Also, if everyone must self-isolate on return to Canada ... should the airlines flying Canadians to the USA not mention in their advertising that everyone must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to Canada??

Elle - August 20, 2020 @ 15:50
How can he say this with good conscience?

“It has become evident that air travel is not an ‘at-risk’ behaviour, and I extend a kudos to all travel partners for investing in public safety,” he said.“

Judy - August 20, 2020 @ 10:36
I have been asking the same question of others this past few weeks: why is it ok to fly to the USA but not drive?? So far I've received no answers... It defies logic! Must be due to some 'hidden' agenda not being revealed.

Denise - August 19, 2020 @ 14:05
Yes what a joke...can't drive across but come on in by flying across ::::( this should be closed as well to and from the USA). Covid doesn't care if you drive or fly ..

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