Canada imposes more international air travel restrictions

Canada is adding significant new air-travel restrictions to ward off further coronavirus transmission, including suspension of all travel to the Caribbean and Mexico and funneling all international flights through four airports.

“The government and Canada’s main airlines have agreed to suspend service to sun destinations right away,” Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said Jan. 29.

The suspension covers service by Air Canada, Air Transat, Sunwing and WestJet from Jan. 31 through April 30. Special accommodations will be made to get passengers already at these destinations back home, Trudeau added.

All international service will now operate through either Calgary (YYC), Montreal Trudeau (YUL), Toronto Pearson (YYZ) or Vancouver International (YVR). The new gateway restrictions apply to all international flying, including US transborder service.

Inbound passengers also face additional mandatory screening, including a COVID-19 test upon arrival. After taking the test, inbound travelers will wait at a hotel—at their own expense, Trudeau said—until results are in.

Positive cases will require quarantining at a “designated” government facility, while those who test negative still must quarantine at home. The post-arrival tests are in addition to pre-departure tests on inbound flights that are already required.

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Trudeau called the sun-destination suspensions “tough measures”—in exchange for a time “when we can plan these vacations ... ideally later this year.”

Trudeau said the government will work with airlines on the “future relationship” of travel with testing and quarantine requirements in preparation for when restrictions can be relaxed. “We all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” he added.

“The government asked [for the service suspensions], and we agreed,” WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims said. “While we know that air travel is responsible for less than 2% of cases since the start of the crisis, and even less today, we recognize the Government of Canada’s ask is a precautionary measure.”

Canada has had restrictions on international and domestic travel as well as border crossings since early in the pandemic, forcing its airlines to drastically cut or, in some cases, completely shut down operations. Porter Airlines has been grounded since March 2020.

Air Transat was down to six destinations—five of them in the Caribbean. The leisure-focused airline said it will suspend all flying through April 30 as a result of the latest restrictions.

Photo credit: WestJet via Twitter

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.