A WestJet service from Los Angeles was among the first planes to fly into Calgary International Airport and take advantage of its new COVID-19 testing trial. WestJet flight WS1511 touched down late Monday afternoon, the same day Calgary Airport started its government-backed testing trial.
New COVID-19 testing trial starts at Calgary Airport
To date, all passengers entering Canada have to go into a 14 day quarantine period upon arrival. This includes Canadian citizens. But from November 2, passengers arriving into Calgary who agree to take part in a COVID-19 testing trial can leave quarantine as soon as a negative test result comes in. That’s usually within a couple of days. Calgary Airport is the only airport in Canada offering this trial.
“This pilot (testing trial) is the health and science-based approach that WestJet and our industry has been seeking,” said Arved von zer Muehlen, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer, in a statement provided to Simple Flying.
“The start of this unique trial is a significant first step in giving peace of mind to those who need to travel and were apprehensive due to the rigorous quarantine requirements and testing restrictions.”
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.
A big win for WestJet and Calgary Airport
WestJet’s enthusiasm for the Calgary testing trial is understandable. Calgary Airport is WestJet’s home port and biggest hub. WestJet is the only Canadian airline offering direct flights to several big North American cities out of Calgary. That includes destinations such as Cancun, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.
Equally pleased is Calgary’s Airport Authority. Passenger numbers through Calgary are now back to 1995 levels and down 68% on last year.
“Calgary International Airport is proud to be the first and only airport in Canada to have a government-approved testing pilot for arriving international passengers,” says the airport’s CEO, Bob Sartor, in a media statement.
“This innovative testing is the lifeline our airport and airline partners need.
“A new era of travel is upon us, and the Calgary Airport Authority looks forward to helping pave the way forward.”
It’s not just WestJet that will benefit from this testing trial at Calgary. A raft of North American airlines operate international services into the airport. Alaska Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Eagle, Frontier Airlines, and United Airlines fly in from airports in the United States.
Testing trial part of a raft of measures at Calgary Airport designed to keep everyone safe
From further afield, KLM usually flies in from Amsterdam. British Airways, Edelweiss Air, and Condor all usually operate seasonal services from Europe. The COVID-19 testing trial at Calgary Airport will make life easier for passengers on all incoming international flights.
The trial can potentially boost demand for flights into Calgary. That will benefit both the airport and the airlines that use it. Certainly, that could be the case while Calgary Airport remains the only Canadian airport offering the trial. Passengers landing at the bigger international airports in Vancouver, Montreal, and Toronto all still have to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
As Calgary Airport notes, they are a natural fit for the testing trial. The airport has a strong emphasis on a safe, secure, and healthy environment. Calgary’s #FlyHealthyYYC program promotes increased passenger and community protection.
This, along with better communication, leads to enhanced safety measures. These include rigorous cleaning practices of high-touch areas, mandatory mask-wearing, plexiglass barriers, physical distancing reminders, contactless kiosk solutions, temperature screening, and hand-sanitizing stations.
As for WestJet, they are keen to promote the testing trial and generate passenger traffic into Calgary. After a day or two, passengers who come back with a negative result are free to go about their business in Canada. For a time at least, this could become the new normal for passengers entering Canada.
What do you think? Is the Calgary Airport COVID-19 testing trial a good idea? Should it get rolled out to other Canadian airports? Post a comment and let us know.