Passengers near Manitoba COVID-19 case on June flights now told to self-isolate

News from CBC News – link to story

No new cases of COVID-19 announced in Manitoba on Thursday; province has 16 active cases

Aidan Geary · CBC News · Posted: Jul 02, 2020

COVID-19 samples at the B.C Centre for Disease Control lab in this April file photo. No new cases of COVID-19 were announced in Manitoba on Thursday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Some passengers on Air Canada flights last month are now being advised to self-isolate because they are considered close contacts of a COVID-19 case identified earlier this week in Manitoba, the province said Thursday.

No new cases of COVID-19 in the province were announced on Thursday, with a total of 16 active cases in the province.

The daily news release did, however, update a warning from earlier this week about a passenger who travelled by plane three times in June and tested positive for COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the province advised passengers on the flights to simply self-monitor for symptoms. However, on Thursday, that advice was updated to instruct passengers in affected rows to self-isolate for 14 days following the flight.

The province’s advisory includes:

  • June 18: Air Canada flight AC 295, from Winnipeg to Vancouver, rows 19-25.
  • June 21: Air Canada flight AC 122 from Vancouver to Toronto, rows not yet determined.
  • June 23: Air Canada flight AC 259, from Toronto to Winnipeg, rows 24 to 30.

People who were on those flights and in those rows are considered close contacts of the case, the province said. They are advised to self-isolate for 14 days from the time of the flight and monitor for symptoms.

If you were on the flight but not in the affected rows, you should self-monitor for symptoms, the province said.

In the past week, 10 new cases of COVID-19 have been announced in Manitoba. Eight of them were in the Winnipeg health region, according to provincial data, and the remaining two were in the Southern Health region.

At least four of the cases were linked to the trucking industry.

As of Thursday, 302 people have recovered from COVID-19 in Manitoba, the province said Thursday.

A total of 325 confirmed or probable cases have been identified in the province since the pandemic began, and seven Manitobans have died.

No one is currently in hospital or in intensive care for COVID-19, the province said.

On Wednesday, 512 tests were completed, with a further 503 tests on Tuesday. That brings Manitoba’s total to 64,329 tests since early February.

3 flights to Vancouver International Airport possibly exposed to COVID-19

News from CTV News – link to story

Regan Hasegawa, Multi-skilled Journalist, CTV News Vancouver | July 2, 2020

YVR

Planes are seen on the tarmac at YVR in this photo from April 2019. (Gary Barndt / CTV News Vancouver)

VANCOUVER — Health officials are warning passengers on three flights that recently landed at Vancouver International Airport YVR to monitor for symptoms of COVID-19.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is not sharing which seats on the planes were affected. As a result, everyone who was on the flights is asked to self-isolate for two weeks from the day they landed in Vancouver.

These are the affected flights:

  •  Air Canada flight 217 from Saskatoon on June 16.
  •  Air Canada flight 557 from Los Angeles on June 18.
  •  Flair Airlines flight 8102 from Toronto on June 21.

Travellers on the flights won’t be contacted directly, as health officials stopped that practice back in March.

All airline passengers are encouraged to check the BCCDC website regularly for two weeks after they arrive back in B.C. to ensure their flight has not been exposed to the virus.  

Self-isolation rules still apply to N.W.T, Nunavut residents travelling by air to Yukon

News from CBC News – link to story

Self-isolation is only waived for those that can come straight to Yukon through B.C.

Anna Desmarais · CBC News · Posted: Jul 02, 2020

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Brendan Hanley at a COVID-19 press conference regarding the start of the territory’s Phase 2 recovery plan on July 1. (Government of Yukon)

Northerners travelling to Yukon via southern airports outside of British Columbia will still have to self-isolate upon arrival, according to Yukon Premier Sandy Silver.  

On July 1, premier Silver extended the Yukon-B.C. travel bubble to include those from the N.W.T and Nunavut — only if they travel from their territory to Yukon or through British Columbia. 

Data from Google Flights shows that all Air Canada flights from Yellowknife to Whitehorse will have layovers either in Edmonton or Calgary, Alta., on route to Vancouver. Flights from Iqaluit to Whitehorse often travel through Ottawa or Winnipeg to get to the territory. 

In those cases, Premier Silver said northern residents arriving by air with layovers in provinces like Ontario and Alberta will have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. 

‘Making our decisions … not just on geography’

“We’re making our decisions not necessarily just on geography or ease of getting here but also epidemiology,” Silver told reporters.

“At this time, we … are opening ourselves as well, knowing full well that it’s pretty hard for someone to come directly from Nunavut into Yukon.”

The N.W.T announced a new travel bubble with Nunavut on June 12 as part of its Phase 2 reopening plans. The move struck down the self-isolation requirement for people travelling between the territories.

Yukon was initially excluded from the travel bubble because of its plans to loosen self-isolation requirements with British Columbia. 

N.W.T. residents are still required to self-isolate for 14 days upon return from Yukon. 

Premier recommends reserving charters 

Silver said the travel bubble would directly benefit residents of Fort McPherson, N.W.T. — the closest community to Yukon along the Dempster Highway.

Residents of Tsiigehtchic, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., are also able to drive directly into Yukon via the Dempster.

Communities in the Dehcho, including Fort Liard, Nahanni Butte and Fort Simpson, N.W.T., would also be able to travel into Yukon through British Columbia without having to self-isolate. People looking to drive into B.C. through the N.W.T.’s Highway 7 will have to make an appointment to cross the border either on a Tuesday or Friday. 

But, Silver continued, travel to Yukon from other parts of the territories “isn’t impossible.” He recommended that people consider chartering flights if necessary, but reinforced the message that travel should still be limited into the territory. 

“You could charter from Inuvik or smaller communities and you’d be allowed to if you could come in,” Silver said. 

Anyone travelling to Yukon is asked to go to Yukon.ca to figure out if they meet the self-isolation requirements. 

No direct flights to Whitehorse until mid-August

Air North, Yukon’s main commercial airline, wrote on its website that its Whitehorse-Yellowknife-Ottawa route will be starting up again on Aug. 15. Once that flight is available, northerners could fly from Yellowknife to Whitehorse without having to self-isolate. 

Kelly Lewis, a spokesperson for Canadian North, said in a statement that the N.W.T.’s main commercial airline will not be adding any direct flights between Yellowknife and Whitehorse during the northern travel bubble, because Yukon’s capital city is not in their purview. 

Canadian North is, however, adding a new flight from Yellowknife to the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut that will help residents travel between the N.W.T and Nunavut, Lewis said. The popular Yellowknife-Rankin Inlet route will not be reinstated in the meantime based on recommendations from the Nunavut government — but Lewis said they’re looking into it. 

“We understand that this is a routing that some people would like to see return so we will look at options to do so when the time is right,” the statement reads. 

‘Not entirely a bubble’ 

Julian MacLean, a dietitian living in Inuvik, will be one of the first people taking advantage of the new northern travel bubble this weekend. 

MacLean said he’s making the time to do the hours-long, 1,200-kilometre drive down the Dempster Highway to Whitehorse to do some vehicle maintenance and grocery shopping before a possible second COVID-19 wave.

“Restrictions will probably get tighter again, so if I don’t go now, I probably wont be able to go later,” MacLean told CBC. 

Maclean said his employer is letting him take the self-isolation time in the N.W.T. upon arrival as leave — but for many others, the N.W.T.’s self-isolation requirements upon return make travel less appealing.

Thank you, Craig from YVR

From Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR)

June 30, 2020 · Annalisa King

On behalf of Vancouver Airport Authority’s Board of Directors, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize our very own Craig Richmond, who retired from his position as President & CEO today, June 30.

Craig demonstrated exceptional leadership over the last seven years. Shortly after rejoining YVR in 2013, he made his mark, with how the airport was going to do things, and courageously lead the Airport Authority team through a period of rapid growth that saw passenger traffic increase by 46 per cent. Under his leadership, YVR saw so many new things—expanding our destinations all over the world, working with Air Canada to become their transpacific hub, embarking on some ambitious expansion projects and championing innovation, such as our award-winning BorderXpress kiosks. And of course, winning the Skytrax award for Best Airport in North America for a record 11 years!

Much of the how was that Craig always made sure to focus on people. He believes that everyone who wants to fly should be able to fly and championed YVR’s push for greater accessibility, recognized in our gold certification status from the Rick Hansen Foundation. He was a huge advocate for diversity and inclusion, having worked closely with our team to ensure our workforce strives to reflect the communities we serve. And he took sustainability seriously, pushing our team to make sure we benefit the region by being a good neighbor, a community contributor, a thriving business and an environmental steward.

He also saw the power in being a community-based, not-for-profit. Our sense of profit for purpose thrived and grew under his leadership, fostering tremendous progress. But Perhaps the pinnacle illustration of this was when Craig and his team worked closely with Musqueam to create the historic Musqueam Indian Band – YVR Airport Sustainability & Friendship Agreement, a monumental effort that Craig has always said is one of his proudest achievements, and I certainly agree.

There are many more highlights that demonstrate Craig’s excellence, but, above all, the most powerful example is the simple fact that he is genuine. He could keep the hard pace that his position demanded, all while enjoying a laugh at his own expense and engaging with his team on a daily basis. It definitely made YVR a fun and amazing place! I have said, on several occasions recently, as we celebrate Craig that his heart will live on at YVR forever, and though we will miss him we will always celebrate his memory.

Craig, there’s so much for you to be proud of. You have led the YVR team through bright and challenging times and we are a better airport for it.

Thank you so much and enjoy your retirement.

Annalisa King
Chair, Board of Directors
Vancouver Airport Authority

279 N.B. call centre, airport staff among WestJet layoffs

News from CBC News – link to story

Company announced Wednesday it had permanently laid off 3,333 employees

CBC News · Posted: Jun 25, 2020

WestJet announced Wednesday it was permanently laying off 3,333 workers, 279 of which are based in New Brunswick. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

More than 270 WestJet employees in New Brunswick were let go as part of the mass layoffs the Canadian airliner announced Wednesday.

The company announced it laid off 3,333 employees permanently, citing the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing travel restrictions as the reason for the cuts. 

Of the 279 affected New Brunswick workers, 253 are in Moncton, where the company shut down its call centre.

In a statement to CBC News, WestJet confirmed that all of its call centres will be consolidated in the company’s home in Calgary. Other centres in Halifax and Vancouver are now closed, too. 

Fifteen WestJet employees at the Greater Moncton Roméo LeBlanc International Airport and 11 staff at the Fredericton International Airport have also lost their jobs.

However, the closures have not impacted WestJet flights at either airport.

In a video issued by WestJet on Wednesday, CEO Ed Sims said all domestic airport operations will be contracted out, except Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto. 

“We will seek to find a suitable partner who can provide high airport service levels through their commitment to hire as many of our affected WestJetters as possible,” Sims said in the video.

The company had 14,000 staff before pandemic border closures and travel restrictions grounded two-thirds of its fleet. Only 4,500 employees are currently on the payroll, and the company says it’s looking to bring back 5,500 employees temporarily laid off.

Year-over-year international passenger numbers have plummeted to a fraction of pre-pandemic travel, leading airlines to lay off thousands of employees.

With files from Gary Moore

Smokes on a plane: Surrey, BC man arrested after lighting cigarette mid-flight, forcing landing in Winnipeg

News from City News 1130 – link to story

BY HANA MAE NASSAR Posted Jun 18, 2020

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

WINNIPEG (NEWS 1130) – A man from Surrey has been arrested and charged after he’s said to have refused to wear a face mask and lit a cigarette during a flight.

The 60-year-old’s actions forced the plane to divert to Winnipeg last Sunday. He was met by Winnipeg International Airport RCMP officers, who had been called to reports of an “unruly passenger.”

“The man was arrested without incident,” the RCMP says.

The plane he was on was flying from Vancouver to Toronto when it was forced to land.

The man has been charged with Mischief Over $5,000, smoking onboard an aircraft, and failing to comply with instructions from the flight crew.

YVR Launches Industry-Leading Health and Safety Campaign with YVR TAKEcare

From Vancouver Airport Authority (YVR)

Program introduced to ensure travellers move through the airport with confidence

RICHMOND, BC, June 18, 2020 /CNW/ – Today, Vancouver International Airport (YVR) announced the launch of YVR TAKEcare, an operational program and health and safety campaign designed to help people move through the airport safely and with confidence. To help combat COVID-19, YVR TAKEcare places industry-leading health, safety and cleaning practices and protocols at the forefront of airport processes and includes collaboration with the airport’s many partners.

“We are pleased to announce the launch of YVR TAKEcare,” said Robyn McVicker, Vice President, Operations & Maintenance, Vancouver Airport Authority. “The safety and security of our passengers, employees and all airport visitors is our top priority. Through this multi-layered program, our goal is to create a safe and frictionless airport experience— from the curb to the cloud— so that passengers and employees feel confident while at the airport.”

As part of the program, YVR is streamlining airport processes to ensure a seamless, touchless and physically distanced travel experience by investing in new technologies and reconfiguring airport infrastructure. YVR is expanding on existing measures as well as implementing new ones. Current TAKEcare measures include:

  • Asking that face coverings be worn at all times while in the public areas of the terminal.
  • Requesting that only travellers with a valid ticket and employees who work at YVR enter the terminal building, with exceptions made for those requiring extra assistance.
  • Increasing cleaning across all high-touch areas.
  • Providing additional hand sanitizer throughout the airport
  • Installing plexiglass at counters to provide guests and employees with an additional layer of prevention.
  • Placing TAKEcare team members at key locations throughout the terminal to provide assistance and answer any questions.
  • Displaying clear in-terminal signage throughout the passenger journey that encourages physical distancing whenever possible.
  • Facilitating temperature screening at the entrance of security screening for some travellers. This process will become standardized in the coming days for all passengers, as announced recently by Transport Canada.

YVR TAKEcare will be an essential component of the airport’s recovery from COVID-19. The program will continue to evolve in the weeks ahead following any additional guidance and directives from government, health authorities and industry experts. YVR continues to work closely with its partners to inform a national and global standard, further instilling confidence among the public.

YVR Business Blog Series – Innovative Travel Solutions with Chris Gilliland

From YVR Blog (Vancouver Airport Authority)

June 15, 2020 · Alisa Gloag

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates

Like many companies, COVID-19 has made us recalibrate and refocus our business at YVR. Operating an airport in a pandemic brings many changes and challenges, but it also presents opportunities – opportunities for innovation, efficiencies and growth.

As part our series Perspectives, we’re talking with YVR’s business leaders to share how their team and business unit are helping reshape and rebuild YVR in this new normal.

Chris Gilliland, YVR’s Director of Innovative Travel Solutions, understands how big challenges can present big opportunities. Chris leads YVR’s Innovative Travel Solutions (ITS) team, which is a world-leader in kiosk-based border control solutions. Right now, ITS is managing up to 1,700 BorderXpress kiosk products at over 43 airport and seaport locations worldwide.

Interestingly, the Innovative Travel Solutions team never set out to be a global leader in border control solutions, rather a team that solves critical business challenges. Chris’ team uses an innovation roadmap process to identify and analyze the business problem, come up with the best solution, and quickly develop and test the idea at YVR. Being agile and collaborative are key to piloting new innovations at YVR, and then implementing them at other airports.

“Our products are built to serve a purpose, which is to help make the travel process more efficient, safe and secure,” says Gilliland. “And we’re taking this same approach to develop new contactless travel solutions that ensures a passenger’s health and confidence during this pandemic and beyond.”

With the aviation industry’s focus on touchless technology, Innovative Travel Solutions is quickly responding with new products and enhancements. For instance, work is well underway to retrofit the successful BorderXpress kiosk product to make it contactless. The team is testing the new technology in August at YVR, with plans to make the retrofit available to all customers worldwide later this year.”

“Alongside the BorderXpress retrofit, we’ve also developed TagitXpress – a completely contactless kiosk solution that scans a traveler’s boarding pass and prints a baggage tag in less than 3 minutes. We’ve had great airline and airport interest in TagitXpress and we think it’s an important touchless solution that maintains traveler health and also supports YVR’s business recovery.”

“I’m really proud of our team for always looking for opportunities that lie within uncertainty or change,” notes Gilliland. “Innovation is how we push forward and adapt our business so we can continue being an economic generator and gateway for B.C.”

WestJet releases July schedule to get Canadians exploring again

From WestJet, an Alberta Partnership

Airline continues to focus on significant safety and hygiene enhancements to ensure a safe travel journey

CALGARY, AB, June 15, 2020 /CNW/ – WestJet today released its updated July schedule, developed to allow Canadians the pleasure of summer travel while economically supporting communities across the country in safely reopening travel and domestic tourism. In addition, the airline has added flights to select U.S. markets.

To ensure guests can book with confidence, the airline maintains its stringent Safety Above All hygiene program and continues to provide flexibility in booking, change and cancellation policies.

“Today’s schedule reflects our commitment to orderly and safe travel while providing steps to allow Canadians to get out, explore, and take part in critical economic activities like staying in hotels, eating out, visiting tourist attractions or simply just travelling to see friends and family,” said Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “Governments and Canadians from coast-to-coast are working together to lessen the impact of this pandemic and we are grateful that these efforts have put us in a position to add more options for travel this July.”

From July 5 through August 4, 2020, WestJet will offer operations to 45 destinations including 39 in Canada, five in the U.S. and one in Mexico an increase of approximately 102 per cent more flights from June, but down 76 per cent from July 2019.

Continued von zur Muehlen, “As we emerge from the pandemic, health vigilance must be balanced with the gradual reopening of our economy. WestJet has done our part and spent millions of dollars to ensure the safety and well-being of our guests and our people. We’re ready to get Canadians flying.”

On March 22, WestJet suspended its international and transborder operations. The airline’s schedule now contains flights to key transborder and international destinations including Los Angeles (LAX), Atlanta (ATL) and Las Vegas (LAS).

“Jurisdictions around the world are opening, allowing citizens to begin flying once again which is kickstarting their economies for recovery. We’ve heard from the communities we serve and look forward to having Canadians safely participate and stimulate domestic tourism this summer,” stated von zur Muehlen.

At this time, the airline is planning on operating the following domestic routes and frequencies from July 5 – August 4.

Continue reading

Longer lines, higher fares and no booze: Flying is about to get more aggravating

News from The Star – link to story

People leave the airport after arriving at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Monday, March 16, 2020. Flying is about to get even more tedious. Temperature checks. Bigger lines. Fewer meals. No alcohol. And ultimately, higher prices.

By Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press, Sun., June 14, 2020

Temperature checks. Bigger lines. Fewer meals. No alcohol. And ultimately, higher prices.

Air travel — often a headache before the COVID-19 pandemic — is set to become even more uncomfortable, experts say, as increased in-flight personal space is offset by longer waits, higher airfares and more sterile environments.

Carriers, whose fleets have largely been grounded since mid-March amid global travel restrictions and extremely low demand for travel, now face the dilemma of generating enough revenue to stay afloat while keeping their passengers and employees safe.

In an effort to maintain physical distancing, Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. currently block the sale of immediately adjacent seats in economy class and throughout the entire plane, respectively.

Air Canada passengers currently receive complimentary kits that include hand sanitizer, antiseptic wipes, gloves, a water bottle and — in line with federal rules as of June 4 — face masks.

To minimize customer-employee contact, pillows, blankets and alcohol are unavailable, with drink service limited to bottled water. Only travellers on international flights or in business class on journeys over two hours are offered boxed meals — no multi-course meals on the menu, even for “elite” flyers.

Infrared temperature checks will soon be required for all international passengers as well as those flying within Canada, with screening stations to be set up at 15 airports by September, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Friday.

Travellers with an elevated temperature — 37.5 C in the case of Air Canada, which already conducts screenings — will be unable to board the flight, and barred from flying for at least 14 days.

Just how effective the checks are at virus detection remains up in the air.

“Thermography is only good for people who have the beginnings of a fever, or are somewhere along with a fever,” said Tim Sly, epidemiologist and professor emeritus at Ryerson University’s School of Public Health. “But we now know this virus is a stealth virus.”

A recent study at Imperial College London found that the technique would not detect a heightened temperature in about half of those with the virus.

Passengers, flight crew and airport workers must wear non-medical marks or face coverings at all times, with exceptions for eating that include dining and children under the age of two, according to Transport Canada.

Passengers seated in the back now typically board first and those in the front board last to reduce the risk of transmission.

Airports in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary are also encouraging a “touch-free” baggage check where travellers check in remotely, print bag tags at an airport kiosk and drop off luggage at a designated spot.

Physical distancing rules at busy terminals could shrink capacity and cause congestion for arrivals and departures, making it harder for carriers to recoup their recent losses. Meanwhile, enhanced aircraft cleaning procedures will likely mean more time between flights, which combined with fewer passengers could badly dent their bottom lines.

“Cleaning up, safety procedures — that will delay flights. And it will have some level of expenditures,” said Jacques Roy, a professor of transport management at HEC Montreal business school.

“But the most important thing would be to remove the middle seat. That would reduce capacity by one-third. To compensate you have to increase prices.”

Jim Scott, CEO of ultra-low-cost carrier Flair Airlines, acknowledged that higher fares are likely on the horizon, though not immediately as carriers try to encourage travellers with lower prices.

“If you want that middle seat empty, probably you’re going to have to pay more,” he said.

In North America, physical distancing on board would push the average fare up by 43 per cent to US$289 from US$202 in 2019 just for airlines to break even, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

“Eliminating the middle seat will raise costs. If that can be offset that with higher fares, the era of affordable travel will come to an end,” industry group director general Alexandre de Juniac said last month.

Higher ancillary charges — baggage fees, seating upgrades and other options — also present a potential path to higher revenues down the road, increasing a trend in place before the pandemic, said Jay Sorensen, who heads airline consulting firm IdeaWorksCompany.

While some adjustments may be easier to adapt to — ubiquitous disinfectant dispensers and plastic barriers in terminals, for example — others may be a little more difficult to accept.

Budget carrier Ryanair will require customers to make a special request to use the washroom to avoid what IATA calls a “congregation of passengers” in the cabin.

Nonetheless, the trade group, which counts Air Canada and WestJet among its almost 300 members, raised eyebrows last month when it announced that passenger face coverings have eliminated the need for physical distancing on board — washroom queues aside — and that aircraft seats serve as a barrier to viral transmission.

Airlines may be under pressure to make middle seats available soon as passenger volumes, which have fallen by more than 95 per cent year over year at Canadian carriers, start to rise again. WestJet said in an email it will reassess its no-middle-seat policy at the end of the month, while an Air Canada spokesman said that “it is not possible to speculate on the future possibilities.”

For now, most regulators have not acted on IATA’s push for middle seat occupancy, and airlines may find they need to entice passengers with rigorous health and hygiene protocols rather than filling each flight to capacity, said Dr. Paul Pottinger, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.

“The question, I think, is not one of viruses and infection, it’s one of economics. Is that risk reduction small enough that people would be willing to pay a price in terms of the premium on their ticket?” he asked.

Ultimately, vigilance in physical distancing and sanitization are critical to containing coronavirus spread, no matter how it alters Canadians’ flying experience, Pottinger said.

“It is a layer of protection that I envision for all of us regardless of whether you are squeezed into an aluminum tube or walking down the street. The virus doesn’t care,” he said.

“We just need to give each other a little more personal space. Doing it at the airport and on board? It’s a real challenge.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 14, 2020.