A group representing the Canadian airport industry is calling on the Liberal government to align with the international community in ending the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for aviation employees and air travellers.
“The aviation community has been a supportive partner of the federal government in facilitating the vaccine mandate for travel since October 2021. However, today all Canadian provinces have removed vaccine restrictions, so there is now a different standard for aviation employees and transportation than for other Canadians,” the Canadian Airports Council (CAC) said in a June 6 statement on Twitter.
“Aviation is global. In order to support this industry’s economic recovery and compete globally, Canada must align with the international community and join the list of over 50 countries that have already removed vaccine mandates and COVID protocols for travel.”
— canadasairports (@canadasairports) June 6, 2022
The CAC has 56 members representing more than 100 airports across Canada, which include all of the National Airports System airports and most passenger service airports in every province and territory.
The statement came after CAC interim president and CEO Monette Pasher joined representatives from the Canadian travel and tourism sector at a press conference on June 1 in calling for the end of federal border measures.
Pasher made three demands on behalf of her group: removing mandatory random testing at airports, removing the duplicate health check questions from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) at checkpoints, and allowing unvaccinated security staff to return to work. She said lifting these obstacles will help relieve airport bottlenecks, especially with the increased traffic expected during the summer travel season.
“The summer travel season is upon us and international traffic at our arrivals at our airports is projected to increase by 50 percent at hub airports this summer. We need to move quickly to resolve issues and smooth out the travel experience on arrival into our country,” she said.
Pasher urged the government to help alleviate the pressures Canadian airports are facing by removing border restrictions before June 15. This came after Health Canada and PHAC announced on May 31 that existing COVID-19 measures for travellers entering Canada would be extended until at least the end of June.
Right now, foreign travellers have to be fully vaccinated to be allowed entry. Returning Canadians who do not qualify as fully vaccinated are still required to provide pre-entry tests. All travellers must use the ArriveCan app to report their health and vaccination status within 72 hours before their arrival in Canada.
Earlier last month, another trade association representing 290 of the world’s airlines also called on Canada to end its travel restrictions, citing “massive delays” at major international airports.
The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in a May 24 statement that it has written to the Canadian federal government urging the ministers in charge to “take immediate action to reduce the massive delays at immigration and security which are presently occurring at the country’s main international airports.”
“Aviation, along with travel and tourism, were hit particularly hard during the COVID-19 pandemic and even more so in Canada, due to the very strict border control measures implemented by the government. Following the easing of many of these restrictions, demand is coming back and it is clear that people want to travel,” Peter Cerda, IATA’s regional vice president for the Americas, said in the statement.
In light of this, Cerda said, the sector can “ill afford to have passengers subjected to unacceptable wait times both on arrival in the country or on departure.”
“The relevant authorities must urgently consider removing the last remaining travel related COVID-19 restrictions and work with the industry on policies and processes which will allow passengers to pass through airports with no undue delay.”
Noé Chartier contributed to this article.