Canada’s WestJet prevented ten passengers from boarding their flight on Thursday after they failed to produce a valid negative COVID result. The passengers were flying from Cancun to Calgary. WestJet was able to carry them later in the day but says they expect further similar problems following a sudden Canadian Government ruling that passengers cannot enter Canada without a current negative COVID test result.
A sudden new rule puts pressure on WestJet
Since January 7, the Canadian Government has required all international arrivals aged five years and over to arrive with proof of a negative COVID status. The COVID test must be taken within 72 hours before the traveler’s scheduled departure to Canada.
“Our government remains committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians. These new measures will provide another layer of protection for Canadians as we continue to assess public health risks and work to limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada,“ said Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau when announcing the policy in late December.
While recognizing the need to protect public health, the airline industry lobby group, National Airlines Council of Canada (NACC) criticized the Government’s rush and lack of coordination with airlines. Last week, NACC sent a letter to the Canadian Government asking for a delay. They questioned the rush and highlighted the problems it could cause.
“Canada’s major airlines have invested millions of dollars to protect the health and safety of our passengers and employees, and protect public health,” says Mike McNaney, CEO of NACC.
“(The) announcement occurred without prior coordination with industry, and with many major operational and communication details still to be determined.
“The Canadian aviation industry has been calling on the government for months to introduce a coordinated and systematic testing regime, in conjunction with industry, in order to avoid a rushed and disjointed rollout of testing requirements.”
WestJet publicizes the need for a valid test but expects challenges
WestJet has publicized the COVID test requirement on its website and social media feeds. According to WestJet, passengers have to present a negative PCR or RT-LAMP test at check-in and again at Canadian Customs. WestJet notes it is each passenger’s responsibility to source and pay for their own valid test result.
The airline notes a valid test result must include the passenger’s name and date of birth, the address and name of the lab that administered the test, the date and time of the sample, the test method (PCR or RT-LAMP), and the test result.
“This latest announcement by the federal government is specifically the type of chaotic situation WestJet has been seeking to avoid.”
Referring to the passengers being denied boarding Cancun yesterday, the spokesperson said the “situation further highlights the challenges travelers and our operations face.”
According to Reuters, the problem wasn’t the passenger not having test results. Rather, they didn’t have a test result that met the Canadian Government’s criteria.
What do you think? Was the Canadian Government right to roll out the COVID test requirement at such short notice? Will it cause further problems for airlines like WestJet? Post a comment and let us know.