CALGARY — WestJet passengers who refuse to wear a mask may be denied boarding and face a possible travel ban, says the airline.
To help ensure the health and safety of all guests, the WestJet Group has announced a zero-tolerance policy that requires all guests over the age of two to wear masks and face coverings. The policy, which comes into effect on Sept. 1, 2020, also states that those who fail to comply will face penalties including denied boarding, return of the aircraft to the gate to offload the passenger, and the suspension of travel on any WestJet Group aircraft for up to one year.
“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,” said Ed Sims, The WestJet Group President and CEO. “Masks are mandated by our regulator and the vast majority of our guests are happy to keep themselves and each other safe by complying … Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines.”
The new policy will be managed through a three-step process:
- Passengers will first be asked by the cabin crew to put the mask on
- Passengers will be given a warning that masks are required and compliance is necessary
- 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
It has been mandatory for travellers to wear protective face coverings throughout their travel journey, including at the airport and while in flight, since April 20, 2020 following the global outbreak of COVID-19. As outlined by Transport Canada, travellers requiring an exemption must produce a certified medical note.
Also effective Sept. 1 is the mandatory input of contact information for those travelling on WestJet, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link and Swoop at the 24-hour check-in process online and at kiosks. This, says the airline, will help the Public Health Agency of Canada and the provincial public health agencies across Canada with contact tracing in the case of infected individuals onboard.
Mandatory information at WestJet check-in kiosks will be phased into the policy change by the end of September. Once implemented, guests will no longer be able to bypass the information screen and will be required to input up-to-date information prior to the issuance of a boarding pass.
“We continue to work collaboratively with our health partners to adapt our procedures,” added Sims. “A coordinated approach is essential and we are advocating for contact tracing enhancements along with the introduction of testing.”
Between March 23 and Aug. 25, WestJet has flown more than 725,000 guests on 19,370 flights. Of those, the airline has been notified of just over 230 flights where infected individuals have flown, accounting 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, accounting for less than 1% of flights. There have been no reported cases of transmission onboard any WestJet Group aircraft.
WestJet has invested millions of dollars’ worth of equipment, cleaning and additional measures since the start of the pandemic to protect all those onboard its aircraft. Its new travel hygiene program, ‘Safety above all’, was launched in early June.