Canada Revamps International COVID Travel Rules

With the Canadian Government announcing new international COVID-19 travel rules, expectations are high among Canada’s airlines. Current border restrictions expire on Wednesday, July 21. On Monday, Canada announced it would welcome fully vaccinated travelers from all countries by September 7.

Canada is re-opening its borders to all vaccinated travelers on September 7. Photo: Vincenzo Pace/Simple Flying

“We’re in a much stronger position to further ease border measures for fully vaccinated travelers,” said Canada’s Health Minister, Patty Hajdu. “In March 2020, we implemented some of the restricted border measures in the world. On September 7, we intend to allow entry for fully vaccinated travelers from any country for non-essential travel.

“Ahead of that, on August 9, a number of important changes at the border will come into effect to allow fully vaccinated United States citizens and permanent residents currently residing in the United States to enter Canada for non-essential purposes.”

Tough rules keep Canada safe, but causes havoc for Canada’s airlines

Canada closed its borders to most travelers following the COVID outbreak. Since then, the Canadian Government has taken a conservative approach to re-opening. It has helped keep COVID-19 numbers manageable in Canada but has wrought havoc among Canada’s airlines.

“Today’s announcement provides clarity and timeframes that will allow consumers to plan, and the travel and tourism sector to begin welcoming fully vaccinated foreign travelers once again,” said Mike McNaney, President and CEO of the National Airlines Council of Canada.

Currently, 50% of Canadians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and 75% have had at least one dose. The healthy vaccination rate and relatively low rates of COVID-19 infections have given the Canadian Government the confidence to relax border restrictions.

WestJet calls the decision to re-open borders a “significant and positive step forward.WestJet was flying at 60% of its 2019 capacity this month. Air Canada also welcomed the news, promptly revamping its summer flying schedules into the United States. Some 220 daily Air Canada flights will jet to and from 34 destinations in the United States.

“The easing of travel restrictions announced today by the federal government is an important step based on science, and we are very pleased to rebuild our Canada-United States network,” said Air Canada’s Mark Galardo.

WestJet has welcomed Monday’s border re-opening announcement. Photo: WestJet

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A case of too little too late for Canada?

The United States has allowed travelers from Canada to fly south (although land border crossings into the United States remain mostly closed). Today’s decision helps level the playing field for citizens and permanent residents from both countries.

The re-opening is particularly good news for Toronto-based Porter Airlines. Grounded for over a year, the small airline had anticipated resuming flights from September 8. On the back of today’s announcement, the much-delayed restart of Porter’s flights now looks much more certain.

While the Canada Government’s border relaxation is almost universally welcomed, some say it’s a case of too little too late. Mike McNaney wants to see existing quarantine rules relaxed for non-vaccinated travelers. The National Airlines Council of Canada boss says Canada is “very close to losing the entire summer travel season.”

The future of Porter Airlines looks assured following Monday’s announcement. Photo: Porter Airlines

But Canada’s airlines will cheer the news Canada will start welcoming international travelers once again. In addition to the United States, it will see flights resume with some certainty to other key markets. Among the many markets, Europe beckons.

Canada’s Health Minister notes all travelers to Canada will have to be fully vaccinated with a Health Canada authorized vaccine at least 14 days before entering the country.