If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
RICHMOND, B.C. — WestJet is launching a brand new COVID-19 study today that will help determine the safest and most efficient way to test departing passengers at Vancouver International Airport (YVR).
The ‘WestJet-YVR COVID-19 Testing Study is a collaborative effort between researchers from UBC and Providence Health Care as well as project sponsors WestJet and Vancouver Airport Authority. It will operate Monday to Friday during peak morning hours at WestJet’s domestic check-in area.
The study includes three simple steps: registration and informed consent, testing, and results. It is open to WestJet guests who are residents of British Columbia between the ages of 19 and 80 and who have not tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 90 days. Guests must be flying domestically, and testing is available on the day of travel only.
“WestJet is leaving no stone unturned in ensuring the safety of air travel through initiatives such as the WestJet-YVR COVID-19 Testing Study,” said Billy Nolen, Vice-President Safety Security and Quality, WestJet. “With just three simple steps, we encourage eligible guests to consider taking part while contributing to findings that may influence travel and public health in the future.”
Researchers from UBC and Providence are responsible for collecting samples in a ready-made testing station. It’s important to note that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19; participants who test positive will be required to undergo Health Canada-approved testing using the RT-PCR diagnostic test. For these guests, WestJet will rebook or cancel flights at no charge.
Participants who test negative will continue their travel journey and are still required to follow all existing COVID-19 requirements.
Upon the completion of the study, researchers will submit the results for publication in a peer-reviewed journey. The results will then be shared with public health officials in an effort to contribute to a future testing framework for the aviation industry.
Last month, WestJet also took part in the unveiling of Calgary International Airport’s new COVID-19 pilot project that could potentially cut quarantine times for Canadian travellers returning from international destinations.
In early September, Air Canada kicked off its own pilot project at Toronto’s Pearson Airport, which tests volunteering international passengers for COVID-19, also as a means to reduce Canada’s mandatory quarantine. A subsequent interim report about the project was recently released by McMaster Health Labs, which shows that 99% of study participants tested negative for COVID-19, with just 1% testing positive.