WestJet, a Canadian airline, plans to cut fly operations by 20% across its network in March, citing persistent foreign travel restrictions.
The Calgary-based carrier will also extend capacity reductions that were put in place in January and February.
“It’s disappointing that Canada remains stagnant in its approach and continues to make travel inaccessible and punitive for Canadians and inbound tourists,” Interim WestJet Chief Executive Officer Harry Taylor said in a statement.
Passengers coming in Canada must be vaccinated or have a medical exemption, and all passengers must undergo a pre-departure Covid-19 test within 72 hours of flight departure, regardless of immunization status.
Arriving travelers are also subjected to additional testing and limitations, including self-isolation requirements for unvaccinated passengers and vaccinated passengers awaiting arrival test results.
“Canada remains the only G7 country that still requires required pre-departure and on-arrival PCR testing,” Taylor said, according to CTV News.
Countries all around the world are seeing the value of travel and tourism in economic recovery, and we’re seeing them take steps to reopen their borders safely and make sensible changes to overall travel guidelines and testing standards.”
WestJet and Air Canada’s chief medical officers, as well as Toronto Pearson Airport’s key hub, urged on governments to “move PCR testing from airports to communities” last month.
” In an open letter, Dr. Tammy McKnight, Dr. Jim Chung and Dr. Edward Wasser stated that in one week of arrival testing, “over 123,000 PCR tests were conducted at Canada’s airports with an average positivity rate of 3%.”
They questioned the disparity in the allocation of testing resources when they compared this to the average community positive rate at the time, which was 30%.
Premier Jason Kenney of Alberta welcomed the aviation industry’s proposal to eliminate and relax travel restrictions on Wednesday.
“Our response to Covid needs to change as the disease and the threat change,” Kenney said at the Council of the Federation meeting of Canada’s premiers. “With respect to travel, there are many jurisdictions around the world that have adopted more common-sense travel protocols than we have now in place in Canada.”
Kenney wants the federal government to remove three current restrictions on international travel, according to Lethbridge News: the requirement for a molecular test 72 hours before flight departure, testing and self-isolation upon arrival, and the requirement for children under the age of five to quarantine upon arrival.
Protests against federal vaccine mandates in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, have prompted requests for the limits to be eased. Protests that have shut down the nation’s capital and expanded to border crossings between Canada and the United States have slowed trade.