Aviation measures in response to COVID-19

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On March 13, 2020, the Public Health Agency of Canada advised Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside Canada because of the worldwide pandemic and the rapidly evolving situation globally; and to self- isolate for 14 days upon returning to Canada.

The Government has strengthened messaging and resources at Canada’s ports of entry, and is stressing the importance of self-monitoring and the need to contact local public health authorities if symptoms develop.

The Government recommended that Canadians take additional steps, including avoiding mass gatherings, and advised organizers to consider cancelling/postponing events or modifying the format.

Consolidation of international inbound flights to four major hubs only

On March 18, the Government directed airlines to redirect international passenger flights to four airports – Toronto Pearson International Airport, Vancouver International Airport, Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport and Calgary International Airport.

Domestic flights, as well as flights from the United States, sun destinations such as Mexico, Latin America, South America and the Caribbean, as well as from St. Pierre-et-Miquelon, are not affected by this measure and can continue to operate on their regular routes and land at current Canadian destinations. The Government is working closely with the airline industry and airports to avoid unnecessarily disrupting operations and minimize inconveniencing travelers.

Given existing international flight patterns, the vast majority of international flights were already arriving at these four airports. In light of the new direction, both the Canada Border Services Agency and the Public Health Agency of Canada are ensuring a sufficient increase in their resources at all four airports.

Banning entry of foreign nationals by air travel from all countries except the U.S.

Under the Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Transport requires air carriers on flights to Canada to deny boarding to any passenger who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

For practical purposes, the denial of boarding applies to all foreign nationals on flights to Canada other than trans-border flights.

The measures came into effect on Wednesday, March 18. They do not apply to:

  • a person who has been only in the United States or Canada during the period of 14 days before the day on which they board;
  • an immediate family member of a Canadian citizen or of a permanent resident, i.e. spouse/common-law partner, child and/or a child of a child;
  • a person registered as an Indian under the Indian Act;
  • a person who is authorized in writing, by a consular officer of the Government of Canada to come to Canada for the purpose of reuniting immediate family members;
  • a crew member;
  • a person who is exempt from the requirement to obtain a temporary resident visa under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations and the immediate family members of that person;
  • a person who enters Canada at the invitation of the Minister of Health for the purpose of assisting in the COVID-19 coronavirus disease response;
  • a person who arrives by means of an aircraft operated by the Canadian Forces or the Department of National Defence;
  • a member of the Canadian forces or a visiting force and the immediate family of that member;
  • a protected person (a person who has been determined to be either (a) a Convention Refugee, due to a well-founded fear of persecution in his or her country of origin due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group, or political opinion or (b) a person in need of protection due to a risk of torture or risk to their life or to cruel and unusual treatment or punishment);
  • a French citizen who resides in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon and has been only in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, the United States or Canada during the period of 14 days before the day on which they board;
  • a person or any person in a class of persons whom the Chief Public Health Officer determines does not pose a risk of significant harm to public health or will provide an essential service while in Canada;
  • a person whom the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration or the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness determines their presence is in the national interest; and
  • a person in transit through Canada to another country.

Banning entry of foreign nationals by air travel from the U.S.

Further to the Prime Minister’s announcement on March 20, additional restrictions between Canada and the U.S. are now being applied.

Air carriers are required to notify foreign nationals flying from the United States of the new border measures limiting non-essential travel, including for tourism or recreation. As well, passengers must be advised that, even if they are allowed to board the aircraft, they may be prohibited from entering Canada by Canada Border Services Agency Officers under any emergency order made pursuant to the Quarantine Act—if they exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19.

Coming into effect beginning at noon on March 27:

  • Passengers will need to confirm they are aware of the new measures before boarding a flight from the United States to Canada and that, to the best of their knowledge, they are not prohibited from entering Canada.
  • Air carriers must deny boarding to passengers if they are either ineligible or refuse to positively confirm their eligibility to enter Canada.

Preventing symptomatic passengers from boarding a plane to Canada

Under the Aeronautics Act, the Minister of Transport requires air operators to deny boarding of a traveller who is symptomatic (regardless of citizenship status) and keep them from boarding an international flight to Canada, including a trans-border flight.

Air operators are required to do a health check for all air travellers before they board the flight based on guidance from the Public Health Agency of Canada. This would include the operator asking health questions and looking for visible signs of a cough, fever, and difficulty breathing prior to boarding.

In the event the traveller presents COVID-19 symptoms, the air carrier is required to refuse to board the passenger for travel for a period of 14 days or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms the traveller’s symptoms are not related to COVID-19.

The measures came into effect on Thursday, March 19.

While working to protect Canadians from COVID-19, we must ensure our airlines continue to fly, and that supply chains remain open. As such, these measures do not apply to domestic flights or cargo flights.

Getting Canadians home

The Prime Minister announced on March 21 that the Government is working with Canadian airlines and foreign governments to provide access to commercial flights for Canadian travellers who want to return home.

The flights will only be available to stranded travellers who are Canadian citizens, Canadian permanent residents, or their immediate family members. In addition, only travellers who are asymptomatic will be allowed to board, and all travellers will be asked to self-isolate for 14 days upon entry.

Canadian citizens, permanent residents and members of their immediate family holding a valid travel document will have priority to board these flights to Canada. Foreign nationals who have committed to working, studying or making Canada their home will also be permitted to board with valid travel documentation when these exemptions are implemented. Visit IRCC’s website to get updated information as it becomes available.

In the first series of flights to help Canadians return home, Air Canada operated a special flight on March 21 from Morocco. Flights will also be planned for Peru and Spain, and other countries that will be announced as soon as possible. We are currently working with Air Canada and are engaged with other airlines as we assess global needs.

The Government of Canada is working with Canadian airlines to ensure that stranded Canadians are offered a reasonable commercial price for their return ticket home.

The Government is also enhancing its support to impacted Canadians abroad through the creation of a recoverable financial assistance program.

Canadians who are unable to pay, and who have no available sources of funds to return home, are encouraged to apply for an emergency repayable loan through the COVID-19 Emergency Loan Program for Canadians Abroad. This program was created to help Canadians return home and to cover basic essential needs while they work towards their return.

All Canadians abroad are strongly encouraged to register with Global Affairs Canada. This will allow the Government of Canada to provide information to them as soon as it becomes available.

Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance from anywhere in the world can call the 24/7 Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa at +1 613-996-8885 (collect calls are accepted where available) or email sos@international.gc.ca

Strengthening medical procedures in-flight and medical screening immediately upon landing, with enhanced cleaning and disinfection at airports

Transport Canada is working with air carriers to strengthen current practices in order to ensure that if a traveller becomes symptomatic in-flight, air carriers isolate the passenger quickly according to international standards, and flight crews don appropriate personal protective equipment. In addition, the flight crew would have to notify air traffic control of a passenger presenting COVID-19 symptoms.

Symptomatic passengers will be segregated immediately upon deplaning, so they do not mingle with other passengers in the arrivals area and customs hall.

Strengthened screening measures at airports include stronger and more visible messaging, health screening questions at kiosks, roving Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers checking on arriving passengers, and CBSA officers checking passengers upon departure from the customs hall to ensure delivery and reinforcement of public health messaging.

Airport operators have been asked to perform enhanced cleaning and disinfection of high-traffic areas and facilities, to contain the spread of COVID-19, consistent with Public Health Agency of Canada and international guidance.

14-day self-isolation for all arrivals except for essential work

The Public Health Agency of Canada has asked Canadians to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada and stated that any traveller (Canadian or non-Canadian) arriving in Canada will face a mandatory self-isolation period of 14 days.

Transportation workers who are essential to the movement of goods and people are exceptions to self-isolation. This includes travel associated with the movement of healthy workers in the trades and transportation sector such as flight crews, truck drivers, railroaders, mariners, or the movement of other healthy workers across our border to go to work, including health care providers and critical infrastructure workers.

These workers are asked to closely self-monitor, and self-isolate immediately should they exhibit any symptoms. It is recommended that employers in these sectors conduct active daily monitoring of their staff for COVID-19 symptoms.

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