Canada Prepares For Implementation Of New Testing Requirements

Starting at 00:01 on Thursday, Canada’s new pre-boarding requirements come into effect. The country’s airlines have heavily objected to the new measures’ speedy implementation, which will see them forced to deny boarding to anyone without a negative PCR-test certificate.

Air Canada 777
Airlines are preparing to implement Canada’s new pre-boarding testing regime from tomorrow. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

Canada’s ministers for foreign affairs, transport, and public safety are scheduled to hold a press conference Wednesday afternoon, officially announcing the details of the new pre-departure COVID-regulations. The rules are expected to be stricter than previously intimated and will not leave any wiggle room for carriers to exercise their own discretion.

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

Some islands expected to be exempt

Under the new regulations, airlines will be forced to deny boarding to anyone over five years old not in possession of a negative PCR-test. The only exceptions would be for those from a location where a PCR-test is not widely available to travelers.

As reported by industry sources to CBC News, so far, the only places expected to be included in the exemption are the islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, off the coast of Newfoundland, and Haiti. However, Canada’s consular services are still in the process of determining the availability of testing facilities in their respective jurisdictions.

dog on tarmac stops traffic at toronto airport
It was previously suggested that in the case of unavailable testing facilities, travelers could report to the Public Health Agency for quarantine. Photo: Getty Images

Not a replacement for quarantine

The test itself must be taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure, although CBC sources now say that this could increase to 96 hours depending on the location. A negative test will not be a substitute for the two-week quarantine on arrival requirement already in place.

It had previously been suggested by the Ministry of Transport that if passengers could demonstrate that there was no adequate testing facility available, they could still be allowed to travel.

They would then need to spend their mandatory 14-day isolation at a designated Public Health Agency of Canada quarantine facility. We shall have to await the publication of formal, more exact details to understand the extent to which this will be applicable.

The new pre-boarding measures are meant to come into effect at 00:01 on Thursday, January 7th. Meanwhile, they have encountered severe pushback from Canadian airlines.

Air Transat Airbus A330
Several Canadian airline CEOs have asked the government that the new measures be delayed. Photo: Getty Images

Risk of Canadians stranded abroad

The CEOs of Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing, along with two major trade associations, the International Air Transport Association and National Airlines Council of Canada, have sent a letter to Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

In the letter, obtained by CBC News, they say they were perplexed that airlines and tour operators were not consulted. Furthermore, they argue that the measures should be delayed until January 18th.

“With the current timeframes and lack of clarity and detail, we must note particular concern over the very real prospect of Canadians of all ages being denied boarding and stranded at the destination, in the current context of significantly reduced flight frequencies and over‐stretched airline, government and consular resources due to the pandemic,” said the letter.

Are you or anyone you know affected by the new Canadian regulations? Tell us about it in the comments.