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COVID-19 travel restrictions in Canada affecting recovery, airline says

WestJet is set to slash more flights from its schedule, as the Canadian carrier continues to navigate the COVID-19 travel rules it says are severely impacting recovery.

International travel is on the rise but it’s only a fraction of pre-pandemic times. For those who are planning a vacation, some Canadian airlines have been forced to reduce their routes in order to navigate the drop in demand.

WestJet will cancel 20 per cent of flights in March and it is extending previous cuts from January and February. Interim CEO Harry Taylor says the industry is faced with a crisis and that travel advisories and cross-border testing requirements are meant to be temporary.

“It’s disappointing that Canada remains stagnant in its approach and continues to make travel inaccessible and punitive for Canadians and inbound tourists,” Taylor says.

The Calgary-based airline wants mandatory molecular test requirements for fully vaccinated international travellers to end and return to periodic testing at airports, as well as an end to quarantine for travellers who have to wait for results.

“Canada remains the only country among G7 nations to still require mandatory pre-departure and on-arrival PCR testing,” says Taylor. “Countries across the globe are recognizing the importance of travel and tourism on economic recovery and we are witnessing them take measures to safely re-open their borders and make sensible adjustments to overall travel guidance and testing requirements.”

Robert Duquette, his husband, and their friend are travelling to Mexico for two weeks. COVID-19 tests are not required to enter the country but upon return to Canada, along with completing ArriveCan, they will need to provide a negative molecular test result, which is not included in the price of the trip.

“It’s a cost, it’s an inconvenience, and we’ve done our part; we’ve physically distanced for two years so it’s time to open up,” says Duquette. “I think, as long as other countries are doing so and we’re all fully vaccinated, I don’t see what the purpose is when we’re not even testing at home.”

More Canadians are choosing to travel, but it is only a fraction of pre-pandemic times. Greg Currie, retail operation manager with Bytown Travel Barrhaven, says the agency has seen a rise in bookings, many for European destinations, where testing requirements are not as stringent.

“It makes it a lot easier for clients to book get into Europe without having to get a number of tests prior to entry,” says Currie. “If there is one deterrent, it’s entering back into Canada.”

Currie adds that he has noticed more people are using travel agencies, as navigating the constantly changing rules can be confusing. He says it’s also important that people are prepared with the correct trip insurance, because if one tests COVID-positive abroad, Canada can deny entry for 11 days.

“If you don’t have the correct insurance, if you have to isolate, that’s out of your pocket and that could be hundreds if not thousands of dollars.” Top Stories

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