Sunday,  June 13, 2021  12:21 pm

ATAC applauds proposed changes to travel restrictions, but a "clear timeline" is needed

ATAC applauds proposed changes to travel restrictions, but a "clear timeline" is needed
John McKenna, president & CEO, Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC).
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

The Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) is welcoming the report on border testing and quarantine measures released last week by the federally-appointed COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel. 

The data and science-driven study, which was compiled by epidemiology and virology experts, outlines detailed recommendations that could lead to a safe re-start of Canada's aviation, travel and tourism sectors.

“ATAC is pleased that the report includes recommendations including measures proposed by the aviation industry for the restart of air services both domestically and internationally,” said the association in a statement on Friday (May 28).

Ottawa's panel, which was established in November 2020, is calling for the discontinuation of the mandatory hotel quarantine program, the elimination of pre-departure testing and quarantining for fully vaccinated travellers, among several other items. (Click here to view their entire report).

The ATAC welcomes the proposed changes to Canada's travel restrictions, but says a clear timeline is urgently needed.

“ATAC requests the authorities supplement the recommendations contained in the report with specific timelines for implementation, essentially phase markers to allow operational planning to begin for the aviation sector, and those timelines to be sooner rather than later,” the association said. 

READ MORE: Canada finally has a framework for restarting travel, easing rules for vaxxed travellers. It needs to act now.

The ATAC is a national trade association for commercial aviation and flight training industries. Its membership includes Sunwing Airlines in addition to several other smaller airlines, airports, maintenance facilities and prominent aviation partners.

What's the timeline? 

John McKenna, ATAC President and CEO, said the association was “very pleased” with the proposed measures, but noted how there is a “certain urgency” to implement them as “sufficient time is necessary for the industry to restart, requiring companies to rehire and retrain furloughed employees, and implement the new measures.”

“To do this properly, the authorities need to collaboratively agree with the industry on a clear timeline,” Mr. McKenna said.

ATAC and its members are eager to do “all that is needed” to help in the process of the “critical and urgent recovery” of its industry to support the economic recovery throughout Canada.

"Adjustments" coming soon 

Last week, in a statement, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Bill Blair announced that Canada's current travel and border restrictions will remain in place, despite the contrary advice of their own panel of experts.

READ MORE: Federal advisory panel recommends ending hotel quarantine, Ottawa declines

The committee’s report, however, is excepted to influence future decisions on border and quarantine measures, suggested Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, speaking at a virtual Mississauga Board of Trade event last Friday (May 28). 

“It’s really going to provide good insight into our next considerations and next steps,” said Minister Alghabra, who was unable to provide an exact date for when changes will happen.

The Minister said Canadians can expect to see “adjustments” to border and quarantine measures “in the coming weeks” as COVID-19 cases decline and vaccination rates increase.

“The light is at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “I’m looking forward to beginning adjustments.”

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