‘It’s a balancing act’: Canada’s travel industry responds to vaccine passport, PCR test rules

From CityNews Vancouver – link to source story

airplane
FILE – A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Monday, May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

By Martin MacMahon and Robyn Crawford and Denise Wong | October 22, 2021

Summary

  • Airline industry welcomes requirement to be fully vaccinated to catch a flight
  • National Airlines Council of Canada wants to see removal of PCR test requirement for fully vaxxed incoming passengers
  • Many Canadians expected to seek the sunshine and get out of town

By next weekend, all Canadian travellers catching a flight or train within the country or for international travel will have to prove they are fully vaccinated. An industry group is welcoming the change, and is calling for more adjustments to travel rules.

Those under 12 who are not eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines will be exempt from the requirement, which takes effect Oct. 30. For adults, there will be very few exceptions made.

Starting Nov. 30, proof of vaccination will take the form of a pan-Canadian vaccine passport featuring the traveller’s name, date, of birth, and which vaccines they received and when. The documents will be issued through provinces and territories, as they have access to immunization records.

Mike McNaney, president of the National Airlines Council of Canada, would also like to see a removal of the PCR test requirement for fully vaccinated incoming airline passengers.

“The cost of these PCR tests can be quite prohibitive,” he said. “Then of course, there’s obviously the need to try and schedule them within 72 hours before [departure of your flight] to enter Canada, which can prove logistically challenging.”

He admits it’s a balancing act.

“We have to look at it now from the perspective of ‘Okay, we have new measures put into effect.’ The other measures started months, if not a year-plus, ago. How can we adjust these measures, recognizing that we are going to have to continue to live with the virus, and at the same time, have to strike that balance in terms of overall economic restart?”

A global advisory against all non-essential travel outside Canada was lifted Thursday for those who are vaccinated. That blanket advisory had been in effect since March 2020.

New advice includes being fully vaccinated before travelling abroad at least 14 days before travelling, wearing a mask, washing hands, maintaining physical distancing and following local public health measures.

“Be aware that although you are better protected against serious illness if you are vaccinated, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19,” the government’s Travel Advice and Advisory website reads.

If you’re not vaccinated, the federal government advises people to stay home since you’re at an increased risk of being infected with and spreading the virus when travelling internationally.

Unvaccinated people should continue avoiding non-essential travel to all destinations. Canada still advises avoiding all cruise ship travel outside of the country.

Will there be a Canadian travel boom?

With the blanket advisory against non-essential travel lifted, at least one travel agent thinks a lot of Canadians will be eager to catch a flight to worldwide destinations. Allison Wallace with Flight Centre expects a lot of people will seek the sunshine.

“As resilient as Canadians are and used to Canadian winters, there are a lot of people saying, ‘I cannot do another winter here in Canada.’ So, we have all of the people who love to go to Mexico and the Caribbean, and places like that. That is already where we are seeing the biggest demand.”

If you’re planning to go to a popular destination during peak season, Wallace advises you book soon.

“With pent-up demand, there aren’t the scheduled flights or seats as there were pre-COVID, either. There’s going to be a lot of competition. So, if you have flexibility, use that flexibility to your advantage.”

She says they’ve already seen an increase in people travelling, as vaccines have become widespread. She advises you get good travel insurance, just in case you’re exposed or contract COVID while you’re away.