Calgary To Trial Scrapping Quarantine For Some International Arrivals

Alberta’s Calgary Airport is to become the first and only airport in Canada to have a government-approved COVID-19 testing trial for arriving international passengers. The trial is due to start on November 2. It will slash the number of days arriving passengers have to spend in quarantine. The trial’s announcement was welcomed by Canada’s leading airlines.

A COVID-19 testing trial will roll out at Alberta’s Calgary Airport from early November. Photo: Getty Images

“Air Canada is pleased that the federal government and the Province of Alberta have announced a joint initiative for a pilot project to test international and transborder travelers arriving in Alberta for COVID-19,” said Air Canada in a statement seen by Simple Flying.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

A chance to relax quarantine restrictions in Canada

Right now, all travelers entering Canada, including Canadian citizens, go into a mandatory 14-day quarantine. From November, Canadian citizens, permanent residents, or foreign nationals currently permitted entry into Canada who agree to participate in the trial at Calgary Airport will get released from quarantine as soon as a negative COVID-19 comes in, usually within a couple of days.

Participants must commit to getting a second test on day six or seven after arrival. A community pharmacy participating in the pilot program will handle this. It’s not compulsory to take part in the trial. However, those travelers who decline must complete the full 14 days in quarantine.

“This announcement is welcomed by WestJet,” said Ed Sims, WestJet’s CEO in a statement.

“With our home and largest hub in Calgary, guests from the province will be the first to experience this important trial as an alternative to a 14-day quarantine.”

WestJet is onboard with the new testing trial at Calgary Airport. Photo: WestJet Newsroom

The testing trial should prove a boost for Calgary Airport

The news also pleased Calgary Airport. The airport normally handles 18 million passengers annually. This year, it expects to handle just 5.8 million passengers. Calgary will be the only airport where the government approved testing trial takes place. The only other entry spot offering the trial will be the Coutts land border crossing.

“This innovative testing is the lifeline our airport and airline partners need to instill confidence in air travel,” said Bob Sartor, President & CEO, The Calgary Airport Authority.

Meanwhile, Air Canada has been partnering with a private health care provider to test incoming passengers at Toronto’s Pearson Airport since early September. Air Canada says their program results were “instrumental” is encouraging the Canadian Government to start the testing trial at Calgary.

Air Canada says that since September 3, their healthcare partner conducted over 28,000 tests of arriving travelers at Pearson Airport. The airline says more than 99% of the tested travelers have tested negative for COVID-19. Less than 1% of those travelers have indicated COVID-19.

“The results from the McMaster study at Toronto-Pearson were instrumental in guiding the federal government and public health agencies to add the easing of quarantine to this latest testing initiative,” says Calin Rovinescu, President and CEO at Air Canada.

Air Canada says their Toronto trial encouraged the Canadian Government to undertake the new testing trial at Calgary Airport. Photo: Air Canada Newsroom

A win for Canadian airlines looking to step up business

The Canadian Government notes participants in the testing trial will need to abide by certain rules and conditions. That includes following enhanced preventive health measures, such as wearing masks in public places and avoiding visiting high-risk groups. There will also be daily symptoms checks.

For airlines like WestJet and Air Canada, the trial can’t come soon enough. They’ve poured time, energy, and resources into getting their governments to this point. The airlines (and the airports) see COVID-19 airport testing as an important way to relax border restrictions, get people moving again, and turn around the airlines’ fortunes.

What do you think? Is the Calgary Airport COVID-19 testing pilot a good idea? Post a comment and let us know.