WestJet pushes back against mask mandate as other travel measures likely to ease

WestJet pushes back against mask mandate as other travel measures likely to ease

CALGARY — Reports that the federal government is almost certainly ready to ease almost all of Canada’s remaining COVID travel measures has prompted comment from WestJet.

As reported earlier, both the Toronto Star and The Globe and Mail cite unnamed sources who indicate that the federal government is ready to jettison the vaccination mandate at the border and scrap random testing, plus make ArriveCAN optional. The changes are expected to take effect Sept. 30.

There are also suggestions that some in the federal government are ready to drop the mask requirement for travel, however Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has reportedly pushed for the mask mandate to stay in place at least until after the Thanksgiving holiday break.

WestJet has been among the most vocal proponents of dropping the mask requirement, saying that mask compliance continues to be a major factor in disruptive behaviour onboard its aircraft.

Yesterday WestJet released a statement from Andy Gibbons, VP External Affairs, WestJet:

“As of today, WestJet has not received formal notice from the government outlining changes to Canada’s current travel policies for ArriveCan, random arrivals testing, vaccination or mandatory masking.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have been strong advocates for health and safety measures that are grounded in science and are consistent with other consumer activities. We are strongly in support of the removal of all remaining outdated measures on behalf of our guests and our people who should be empowered to make decisions that are best for them. Air travel has continued to be singled out and current policies are misaligned with the existing global consensus.

“As we await a formal announcement, Canada’s mandatory masking policy must transition to optional to reflect the reality of consumer activities in Canada and around the world.

“Unfortunately mask non-compliance and enforcement on our aircraft continues to be a source of disruption for our people and guests and this transition is critical to align with other major nations. The mandatory mask policy has become increasingly unenforceable.

“For context, in 2022 alone, we have had more than 1,100 reported incidents of mask non-compliance, an increase from 2021. These situations have caused one air turnback, nine gate turnbacks and 74 flights to re-open the cabin door after boarding to offload unruly guests.  Prior to the pandemic, unruly incidents on our aircraft were extremely uncommon, mask non-compliance has significantly increased unruly behaviour and has resulted in verbal and physical assault which we do not tolerate.

“In order to protect our guest and employees and ensure a positive travel experience, we believe the government must appropriately transition this policy.”