AC, WS Ramp Up Health & Security Measures

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

Canada's largest airlines are implementing new health, safety and security measures in a bid to boost passenger confidence and prove that flying can be done in a secure manner despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Air Canada Planning COVID-19 Test Trial

Air Canada is planning to trial a voluntary COVID-19 test for passengers arriving at YYZ to help persuade the federal gov't to end stringent quarantine rules that have crippled air travel, writes Reuters citing Raymond James analyst, Savanthi Syth. 

According to Syth, AC expects to begin a trial -- which will consist of a test at YYZ followed by up to two tests at home -- after the Labour Day holiday on 07SEP.

Canada's quarantine restrictions, which have remained unchanged since MAR, require travellers to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival in Canada.

With this new test, AC is hoping “the data collected will convince the government to take more of a science-based approach with the 14-day quarantine requirement waived or reduced for those with successful (negative) tests,” Syth says.

It is not clear what kind of tests would be used, Reuters reports, although Syth's note to analysts said the ones at home would be administered between five to seven days after arrival, and again at around 10 days.

WestJet To Ban Pax Refusing To Mask Up, Enhance Contact Tracing

WestJet is taking a "zero tolerance" approach when it comes to enforcing masks among its passengers, including banning those who fail to comply for one year.

Since 20APR, 2020, Transport Canada has made it mandatory for travellers to wear protective face coverings throughout their travel journey, including at the airport and while in flight and at the airport.   
Starting 01SEP, WS says non-compliance on board the aircraft will be managed through a three-step process:

  1. Passengers will first be asked to put the mask on in a discussion with cabin crew. 
  2. Passengers will be given a warning that masks are required, and compliance is necessary. 
  3. Passengers will receive notice that non-compliance will result in follow up notification that they will be placed on a no-fly list for 12-months.

If the plane has not left the ground and a pax is refusing to wear a mask, the plane will return to the gate, Ed Sims, The WestJet Group President and CEO said in an interview with CBC. In "extreme circumstances" — if pax continue to ignore masking rules in the air— the plane will turn around and return to its point of origin.

"Canadian travellers and all of our WestJet Group employees are counting on us to keep them safe and it is our utmost priority to do so," Sims said. 

"Masks are mandated by our regulator and the vast majority of our guests are happy to keep themselves and each other safe by complying. This enhanced policy provides clarity on how we will enforce the regulation for those who don't. Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines." 

Contact Tracing Enhancements

WestJet is also increasing support for contact tracing through mandatory guest contact information. 

Effective 01SEP, the input of contact information for those travelling on WestJet, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link and Swoop will become mandatory at the 24-hour check-in process online and at kiosks, no longer able to bypass the information screen. Mandatory information at WestJet check-in kiosks will be phased into the policy change by the end of SEP. 

Less Than 1% Of WS Flights Affected

WS says it provides "full transparency" in advising the public of flights affected by COVID-19. 

Between 23MAR and 25AUG, the airline says it has flown more than 725,000 guests on 19,370 flights. Of those, there were around 230 flights where infected individuals have flown. This accounts for less than 1% of flights. 

Swoop has operated 1,070 flights with 103,000 travellers and has been notified of eight flights where infected individuals have flown, also accounting for less than 1% of flights. 

There have been no reported cases of transmission on board any WestJet Group aircraft. 

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.

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