‘I would not travel’: The consumer and economic impact of new air travel restrictions during COVID-19 pandemic
OTTAWA -- Canada’s latest move to control the spread of COVID-19 had those arriving at the Ottawa Airport Saturday holding off on making future plans to be back on a plane anytime soon.
"I would not travel for that, it would be expensive for me to pay for the hotel," said Ami Batavia, who was arriving in Ottawa after travelling from India.
The federal government announced that in the coming weeks, travellers like Batavia will have to follow strict rules. They will have to spend their own money to quarantine at a hotel for at least three nights, and take a COVID test upon landing — at their expense. The total cost could be thousands.
"I guess it is fair, because it will lower down the cases and it’s a kind of precaution," said Batavia.
Starting Monday, the Ontario government will start mandatory testing for international travellers arriving at Toronto's Pearson Airport.
In Ottawa, international flights have been on hold since the start of the pandemic. Only limited domestic flights have been running, but those too could now be further reduced.
"I could definitely see some of our frequencies to Toronto or Montreal, for example, going down just based on demand, but that’s a wait and see and hopefully that won’t happen," said Krista Kealey, vice-president of communications and public affairs with the Ottawa International Airport Authority.
While only few travelled to or from the Ottawa Airport Saturday, those CTV News Ottawa spoke with agree with the new restrictions.
“As someone who travels a lot for work, I’d have to agree with these travel restrictions, but I think they’re 11 months too late,” one traveller told CTV News Ottawa.
Meanwhile, Batavia is happy to have made it back in time and able to start her own quarantine at home.
"Yeah I’m so glad for that, yeah,” she said.
"This industry has been worst hit": Economist
The new measures are also taking an immediate toll on the already struggling airline industry.
"This industry has been worst hit, it’s the hardest hit of any industry in Canada,” said economist Ian Lee.
Air Transat tells CTV News it will be temporarily laying off all cabin crew and pilots starting Feb. 11. Experts predict other companies will follow suit.
"They’re just going to have a skeleton staff, park all the planes, and layoff the remaining staff because there’s no business, there’s hardly any volume," said Lee.
Fear of the new variants helped to spark the new measures, and while it could help, some health experts say more should be done.
"My ideal is you stay in the monitored quarantine setting for the full 14 days, anybody in the incubation period will not escape," said Dr. Ronald St. John, former federal manager to the SARS response in Canada.