TORONTO — The federal government’s new travel restrictions, considered among the most stringent in the world, require Canadians to overcome several hurdles before and after they arrive home from abroad.
New hotel quarantine measures will come into effect on Feb. 22, which means all air travellers arriving in Calgary, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver (the only four Canadian airports currently allowed to receive international passenger flights) will be required to reserve – prior to departure to Canada – a three-night stay in a government-authorized hotel at their own expense. They will also be required to take a COVID-19 molecular test upon arrival in Canada, before exiting the airport, and again toward the end of their 14-day quarantine period.
But even before all this, air travellers five years of age and older are required to provide proof of a negative molecular COVID-19 test result within 72 hours before they even step foot on a plane back to Canada. Negative results from a molecular COVID-19 test result (PCR or RT-LAMP) must be provided to the airline, in destination, prior to boarding their international flight bound for Canada. If they test positive for COVID-19 or if they fail to provide a negative result, they will be denied boarding.
In this situation, what would happen to a traveller’s return flight home? Would they be responsible to reschedule their flight back to Canada, incurring additional fees? Would they need to purchase a whole new ticket home? Or will they be automatically rebooked on a later flight once they recover from COVID-19?
Sun flights to the Caribbean and Mexico have been suspended on all four of Canada’s major airlines (Air Canada, WestJet, Transat and Sunwing) until April 30, at the request of the federal government. But ahead of flights resuming in the spring, we asked Canada’s top sun operators how they would handle a customer’s return flight should they test positive prior to boarding. Here’s what they had to say:
AIR CANADA VACATIONS
Nino Montagnese, Vice-President of Air Canada Vacations, tells Travelweek that ACV will put the customer on the next available flight back, at no extra cost (unless they wish to upgrade to Executive or Premium Rouge seating).
He says: “At Air Canada Vacations, our focus has been to ensure the health and safety of all our customers, giving our trade partners the tools they need to accommodate Canadians during these most trying times.”
Montagnese also remind travel agents that ACV was the first to offer flexible, transferrable future travel credits with no expiry dates, implement health and safety protocols in destinations, resume operations in June 2020, include COVID-19 protection, and implement agent special rates to experience its CleanCare+ protocols onboard and with its hotel partners.
In the event that a traveller receives a positive COVID-19 test result in destination and is unable to board their return flight home, Melanie Filipp, Sunwing’s Director, Corporate Communications and Media Relations tells Travelweek that Sunwing can assist with arranging new flights along with accommodations and transfers if needed.
“However, new flights or other expenses incurred are the customer’s responsibility,” she notes. “We recommend that customers who have Manulife COVID-19 travel insurance included with their Sunwing vacation package review their full coverage details or contact Manulife for additional information.”
According to WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell, WestJet Vacations would move a customer’s flight and rebook them at no extra cost, should they test positive for COVID-19 while in destination, prior to boarding.
“Our teams have been doing everything they can to assist guests and problem-solve in destinations across our network since the announcement of PCR testing,” she tells Travelweek. “Our WestJet Vacations team is also working in destinations with our hotel partners to facilitate and arrange PCR tests whenever available to best assist our guests.
“In the unfortunate instance a guest does test positive for COVID-19, our team would work with them to ensure they are able to return home as soon as possible on a WestJet flight.”
Bell recommends clients to read up on current regulations at https://www.westjet.com/en-ca/travel-info/pcr-test-canada-entry. Travel agents, meanwhile, can continue to use WestJet’s agent portal for the most up-to-date information.
If a Transat passenger has symptoms of COVID-19 or a positive test for COVID-19, they are asked to contact the company via the Air Transat app or to call their travel agent to book a new return flight with no change fees or difference in price.
Says Joseph Adamo, Chief Distribution Officer: “We are fully aware that flexibility is a top priority for travellers during these uncertain times. We will continue to provide our clients with flexible options that allow them to travel with peace of mind, continuing what we’ve been doing since the beginning of the pandemic.”
For Canada’s most up-to-date entry requirements go to https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/flying#health-check.