Canada’s Minister of Transport, the hon. Marc Garneau, announced on Friday (Aug. 14) Canada’s Flight Plan for Navigating COVID-19, which the government calls "the foundation for Canada’s current and future efforts to reduce the public health risks of COVID-19 while travelling by aircraft."
Canada’s Flight Plan, as it is also called, uses the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) Council Aviation Recovery Taskforce (CART) Report and Take-Off Guidance as a reference point to identify touch points, considerations and recommended practices to maximize the safety and security of air travel both in Canada and across the world.
“Canada is a large country and safe and secure air travel is critical for Canadians to connect with loved ones and for those who rely on it to support their businesses,” Garneau stated in a release. “Implementing Canada’s Flight Plan reinforces our ongoing commitment to protect public health and minimize the COVID-19 risks associated with air travel. This comprehensive plan aligns the actions of government and industry partners to the best practices emerging around the world to protect passengers and air industry workers from COVID-19.”
What's the plan?
This plan puts in place a multi-layered system of safety measures to support public health by protecting air travellers and air industry workers from COVID-19.
Key changes apply to all aspects of air travel, including in airports and aircraft.
They include travel restrictions; mandatory use of face masks for passengers and crew; mandatory health checks by air carriers prior to passenger boarding; temperature screening at the busiest Canadian airports and at points of origin for all incoming flights to Canada; restricted services and passenger movement during flights; and enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols and practices.
In airports, these designs and measures include enhanced air conditioning and filtration systems; frequent cleaning of high-touch areas; new touchless technologies to scan boarding passes; and physical distancing measures.
Modern passenger aircraft also offer a unique environment with design characteristics that reduce the risk of viral transmission.
The air is exchanged at a high rate, with HEPA filtration in most large commercial aircraft. Further, the potential spread of the virus between rows is reduced by the high seatbacks and the fact that almost all passengers are seated in the same direction.
These measures “prioritize the safety and security of travellers and industry employees, and have positioned Canada as an international leader in reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19 while travelling by air,” Ottawa says.
To date, the Government of Canada is not aware of any cases attributed to passenger-to-passenger transmission on a flight to or from Canada.
However, work continues with the provinces and territories to strengthen contact-tracing processes to reduce and quantify the risk of COVID-19 transmission during air travel.
Canada’s Flight Plan will be refined as the Government of Canada learns more about COVID-19, and as international best practices evolve to ensure safety and efficiency of the Canadian aviation system in the months and years to come.
Transport Canada's website states that incoming travellers will still be subject to temperature checks but can use the eDeclaration mobile app to fill out customs forms ahead of time, as well as the ArriveCAN app to submit contact information and an address for mandatory 14-day isolation upon arrival.
For more on the plan, click here.
Air Canada, WestJet respond
Calin Rovinescu, president and chief executive of Air Canada, called the plan "an important step:"
"By aligning the Canadian aviation sector with best international practices for customer health and safety, the Government of Canada has now established the necessary science-based preconditions that assure customers of the highest levels of safety for air travel and for reopening Canadian aviation across provinces and to the world," said Rovinescu in a statement. "Our Air Canada CleanCare+ program encompasses the measures recommended in Flight Plan and, as part of our evolving layered approach to biosafety, we remain committed to working with governments and other stakeholders to continue strengthening biosafety for all travellers. This is an important step to enabling business and the economy to safely restart alongside COVID-19, particularly the airline industry, which is a key economic driver."
Ed Sims, The WestJet Group President and CEO, added:
"Safety has always been above all at WestJet and we welcome the implementation of Flight Plan. We remain committed to working with the Government of Canada to ensure all protocols are consistent with the best practices and advice available to us from around the world," Sims said in a statement.
Airports weigh in
Deborah Flint, president and CEO of the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, said:
"Flight Plan represents the commitment of Canada's aviation industry and Transport Canada to introduce innovative programs and policies that prioritize the health and well-being of airport workers and passengers in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic," she stated. "For our part, Toronto Pearson has worked collaboratively with public health officials, government and industry partners since the very beginning of the pandemic, culminating in the June launch of our Healthy Airport Commitment. From innovative solutions like a disinfection corridor, real-time air quality monitoring, UV light disinfection and autonomous floor cleaners to the fundamentals such as enhanced cleaning and the installation of hundreds of plexiglass barriers throughout the airport, passengers will see that health and safety is front and centre at Toronto Pearson and touches essentially every aspect of their journeys."
Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO, Vancouver Airport Authority, added:
"We applaud the work of Transport Canada's Flight Plan and the biosafety standards set out to protect travellers at every step of the journey," said Vrooman. "We're pleased to see how this aligns with many programs already underway in our industry to ensure passenger health and safety in response to COVID-19. Similar to our partners across the Canadian aviation sector, we launched YVR TAKEcare, a multi-layered operational program and health and safety campaign, to create a safe and frictionless airport experience for airport employees and those who need to travel. YVR TAKEcare places industry-leading health, safety and cleaning practices and protocols at the forefront of airport processes and includes collaboration with many of our airport partners."
The four entities said they will continue to work with the Government of Canada to ensure that the aviation transportation sector can safely advance and continue its critical role in the country's economic recovery.
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