IATA Calls On Canada To Modify COVID-Prevention Plan

Vancouver International Airport
Credit: Vancouver International Airport / Twitter

IATA is urging the Canadian government to replace mandatory quarantines and other travel restrictions with more stringent testing protocols that could help revive travel demand without putting citizens at risk. 

“There are alternatives to the quarantine measures currently in place that can both keep Canadians safe as well as revive the economy,” said IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac, pointing to ICAO guidance as well as initiatives by the country’s largest carriers as examples.  

“The work that Air Canada and WestJet are doing on testing adds another dimension,” de Juniac added. “It is critical that the Government of Canada acts on these before the economic and social damages become permanent and the public health consequences of mass unemployment become even more apparent.” 

The airline trade association’s call comes amid an historic decline in airline passenger demand due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Restrictions put in place for many international travelers has practically eliminated all travel to and from Canada and foreign countries. The most updated figures from Toronto Pearson Airport, the country’s largest, showed international and U.S. transborder passengers decline 96% and 98%, respectively, in June compared to a year earlier.  

Air Canada and WestJet have led Canadian industry’s call to adopt more surgical measures than bans and quarantines.     

“Air Canada has advocated for the adoption of rational, science-based measures in Canada relating to COVID-19, to allow for the prudent easing of travel restrictions and the mandatory 14-day quarantine, thereby striking a better balance for travelers and for the Canadian economy without adversely impacting public health,” said Jim Chung, the airline’s chief medical officer.  

Air Canada recently teamed up with Pearson and McMaster HealthLabs to study quarantine measures’ effect on incoming passengers at the airport. The month-long study aims to put some data behind restrictions, which should support more informed decision-making, the study’s organizers said. 

WestJet and Vancouver International Airport plan to conduct another study that involves testing outbound passengers. Details of the study and its objective, which the airline said will launch this fall, have not been publicly revealed.  

IATA’s call comes as WestJet adds six international destinations—three in the U.S. and three in Mexico—to its Winter 2020-21 timetable. Demand on the routes, set to launch Oct. 4, hinges largely on Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. removing joint transborder travel restrictions that have been in place since March 21 and limit non-essential border crossings. The current set of restrictions are set to expire Sept. 21, but they have been extended multiple times, in monthly increments, since the initial set was put into place.

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.