CALGARY — WestJet’s Director, Government Relations, Andy Gibbons, says WestJet has asked the federal government to phase out the 3-day hotel quarantine requirement for international travellers starting May 1, 2021.
“The hotel quarantine is a deterrent,” said Gibbons this morning.
Gibbons spoke alongside John Weatherill, Executive Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer, WestJet, at a press conference announcing WestJet’s return to Atlantic Canada starting in June 2021.
“The hotel quarantine was not designed to encourage the restart of travel. The hotel quarantine was designed to dampen or eliminate travel. It’s a temporary measure.”
The hotel quarantine was announced Jan. 29, 2021, at the same time that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that all 4 of Canada’s major airlines – Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Transat – had agreed to suspend winter sun flights until April 30, 2021.
While there was never any end-date given for the 3-day hotel quarantine rule, the federal government has consistently said throughout the pandemic that any travel measures will remain in place for as long as is necessary.
“We have requested that the hotel quarantine transition” to a more standard quarantine and testing, if needed, said Gibbons.
“Our expectation, our hope, is that it will transition on May 1.”
Added Weatherill: “We remain hopeful” that international travel restrictions will be scaled down in the coming months, as Canada’s vaccination program gains momentum across the country.
“It is our intention to fly internationally this summer,” said Weatherill.
Asked what they’re hearing from WestJet customers, Weatherill said: “What we’re hearing from our customers is that they’re ready to travel. Many are desperate to travel. They’re waiting to be vaccinated, they’re waiting for their family and friends to be vaccinated. But once that happens, the demand will be there.”
He added: “People want to travel this summer and they’re just waiting for the opportunity.”
WESTJET & VACCINATION PASSPORTS
Gibbons and Weatherill were also asked about vaccination passports and whether or not WestJet will require passengers to be vaccinated to fly.
This week Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said Qantas will take a strong stance on requiring vaccinations for passengers, in the interest of safe air travel for all passengers and crew.
The ever-evolving issue meant Gibbons’ and Weatherill’s responses this morning were not surprisingly non-committal. But they said discussions are underway. “We’re having discussions on a wide variety of issues” including “what is required to unlock safe travel and tourism,” said Gibbons.
“That’s not a requirement of ours at the moment,” added Gibbons.
“Not currently, no,” said Weatherill.