TORONTO — Canada’s airlines are so far in favour of the government’s mandate that federally regulated employees in the transport sector must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 31, 2021.
Both Air Canada and WestJet sent out statements immediately following the news, announced Aug. 13 in a briefing with Transport Minister Omar Alghabra and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Dominic LeBlanc.
“Although Air Canada awaits further details about [the Aug. 13] announcement on mandatory vaccinations, it is a welcome step forward in the evolving measures to protect the health and safety of airline employees, customers and all Canadians,” said Air Canada, adding that the company has been advocating for science-based measures since the beginning of the pandemic.
Air Canada also noted that the federal government’s COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel report released in spring 2021 recommended that there should be no pre-departure testing for fully vaccinated travellers. The report also acknowledged that testing at both departure and arrival is excessive for these passengers, and that effective self-administered rapid antigen tests now available can safely replace slower and more expensive PCR testing for pre-departure tests.
The WestJet Group, including WestJet and Swoop, says it also welcomes the mandatory COVID vaccination mandate from the government.
“We continue to be a strong partner in Canada’s vaccination rollout and are working diligently to implement the government’s policy on mandatory vaccines for airline employees,” said Mark Porter, WestJet Executive Vice-President, People and Culture. “Vaccinations are the most effective way to ensure the safety of our guests and employees, while curbing the spread of COVID-19.”
He said the company is now seeking additional details from the government and is “committed to working together to ensure the successful implementation of the policy by late October.”
The WestJet Group is also advocating that rapid-antigen testing is an acceptable, accessible and affordable alternative for unvaccinated travellers.
Meanwhile the National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) issued its own statement that Canada’s major airlines “have been committed to protecting employee, passenger and public health.”
Says NACC President and CEO Mike McNaney: As we review today’s announcement in detail to fully understand the obligations being placed on the sector, we remain committed to working with the federal government and our respective labour and employee groups as we proceed with implementation of the government’s new mandatory vaccination policy for airline employees.”
McNaney said the NACC will also be seeking further details and clarifications from government concerning new vaccination requirements for domestic air travel.
Also on Friday the federal government announced mandatory COVID vaccinations for air, interprovincial rail and overnight cruise ship passengers. That rule is expected to take effect before the end of October.
Earlier in the week the federal government confirmed plans for a nation-wide system of COVID vaccination certification to help facilitate safe international travel.
McNaney says: “As these new policies are implemented, Canada’s major carriers will maintain their ongoing support for vaccination campaigns, while continuing to invest heavily in the safe restart of travel and tourism in order to drive our national economic recovery in every region of the country.”