WestJet and Air Canada, along with other Canadian carriers, on Friday announced that they would suspend international flights from Canada to Mexico and the Caribbean through at least April 30 at the request of the Government of Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the announcement on Friday as part of a press conference where he unveiled a number of other new restrictions for international travel in and out of Canada.
“With the challenges we currently face with COVID-19, both here at home and abroad, we all agree that now is just not the time to be flying,” Trudeau said at a press conference on Friday.
“The government asked, and we agreed,” Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO said in a statement.
“While we know that air travel is responsible for less than two per cent of cases since the start of the crises, and even less today, we recognize the Government of Canada’s ask is a precautionary measure,” he added. “We have responded to their request and will suspend service to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean.”
Aside from WestJet and Air Canada, Sunwing and Air Transat have also agreed to cancel all Caribbean and Mexico service starting on Sunday.
The other restrictions include forcing all international inbound passenger flights to land at Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, or Montreal; mandatory PCR testing at the airport for people returning to Canada plus a mandatory 3-day quarantine at a hotel at the traveler’s expense (Trudeau said it could cost more than $2,000 CAD); and a further quarantine at home “under significantly increased surveillance” if you test negative and a forced quarantine at the hotel if you test positive.
Plans are also in place for everyone coming into Canada through the land border with the U.S. to show a negative test before entry.
“The news of earlier today with respect to the suspension of flying to the Caribbean and Mexico as well as significant related restrictions is absolutely devastating for all sectors within the travel industry – from airlines to hotels, tour operators, travel agencies, travel agents, independent contractors and all other businesses that rely on tourism,” Wendy Paradis, president of ACTA, said in a statement in response to the news.
“Without enhanced and urgent aid, and protection against commission recall there will be imminent business closures and bankruptcies among travel agencies and independent contractors – as we have been warning the federal government,” she added. “However, as we have been stating for months to the federal government, travel agencies and travel agents cannot survive the brunt of about $200 million in recall commission on cancelled and refunded bookings related to the COVID-19 crisis.”
ACTA reinforced the impact of these latest travel restrictions and its message that any aid given to an airline or tour operator must include funding to cover travel agent recall commissions, and for a fund to cover past bookings already recalled.
“We require immediate and focused discussions with the government to ensure not only the safety of Canadians and travelers --but of our travel businesses,” she said. “Travel agencies and travel agents need aid now. Our industry has been effectively shut down.”