Major Air Carriers Criticize Ottawa’s COVID Approach, Welcome Lifting of Restrictions


Major air carriers in Canada have issued statements criticizing how the federal government managed the pandemic in their sector after it announced measures would be lifted on Oct. 1, with Air Canada saying they weren’t based on science.

“Air Canada welcomes the removal of these restrictions, acknowledging that air travel is safe and that the measures were not justified by science,” Craig Landry executive vice-president and chief operating officer at Air Canada said in a statement.

Landry added this will “greatly” facilitate travel and help to stabilize the sector and the Canadian economy.

The Air Canada statement came on Sept. 26, a few hours after Ottawa announced it was letting lapse interim orders affecting travel and border rules.

Starting Oct. 1, all travellers, regardless of their citizenship or vaccination status, will be able to enter Canada, and masks will no longer be required in planes and trains.

Non-vaccinated individuals will no longer be required to quarantine for 14 days, pre and on-arrival testing will be dropped, and the ArriveCan system which captures personal health and travel information will no longer be mandatory.

“While today’s announcement is a positive step, we urge the government not to lose momentum,” said Landry, calling for the streamlining of processing at airports with improved security, new technologies, and new trusted traveller programs.

He also said the “user-pay model that finances transportation” should be re-examined, due to “weaknesses and interdependencies” exposed by COVID-19.

The CEO of WestJet, Alexis von Hoensbroech, also commented on Sept. 26 on the lifting of the last restrictions.

“Today’s announcement aligns with the travel policies of other major nations, reflects our industry’s outstanding commitment to safety, and recognizes that air travel is no less safe than any other consumer activity,” he said in a statement.

Von Hoensbroech said WestJet is “relieved” that its customers will now be able to make decisions that are “best for them.”

Von Hoensbroech had been publicly critical of Canadian restrictions soon after taking the helm of the company in February.

He questioned the mask requirement in March, and then the travel vaccine mandate in May.

Despite Von Hoensbroech’s stance in favour of personal responsibility, his company had to impose a vaccine mandate on its employees due to federal regulation. Some employees are suing the company over the mandate.

An advocacy group that fought against vaccine mandates in transportation reacted to the statements from major carriers and said they’re “trying to position themselves as sanctimonious innocents.”

They’re “pretending they knew all along ‘the science’ didn’t support the policies, ones they went above and beyond to support in their actions,” says Greg Hill, an airline pilot and co-founder of Free to Fly.

“Employees, meanwhile, lost millions of dollars in income, homes, marriages and mental health over these policies. These companies can’t just say ‘oops’ and move on.”


Air Canada has not explained why it thinks the federal restrictions were not “justified by science,” but available information from the federal government and the industry indicate both considered the risk of viral in-flight transmission to be low.

“While it is true that air travel can result in the importation of passengers with COVID-19, the risk of spread of COVID-19 amongst passengers while traveling aboard aircraft appears to be low,” wrote Transport Canada in a November 2020 brief titled “Risk of COVID-19 Transmission Aboard Aircraft.”

The brief cites an October 2020 press release from the International Air Transport Association saying there had been a rate of one flight-related transmission for every 27 million travellers.

An epidemiologist from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) testified during cross-examination in May that the travel vaccine mandate was based on little information on the impacts of vaccination on in-flight transmission of the virus.

“There are not many studies that look at vaccination status, most of the research that’s been done occurred prior to widespread vaccination,” said Dr. Lisa Waddell of the Emerging Sciences Group at the PHAC.

Waddell was testifying as a government witness in defence of the travel vaccine mandate challenged by four lawsuits.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said in a Sept. 26 statement that border measures can be lifted “Thanks largely to Canadians who have rolled up their sleeves to get vaccinated.”

PHAC mentioned other factors in the statement, such as modelling about the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 waves and lower hospitalization and death rates.

Source: The Epoch Times