WestJet and Air Canada to end physical distance on flights effective July 1


The country’s two largest airlines end their seat separation policies on July 1, raising health concerns in a pandemic that has devastated the travel industry.Air Canada has blocked the sale of immediately adjacent economy class seats, and WestJet Airlines has done the same throughout the aircraft, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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The carriers said on Friday that they would reverse the health recommendations of the United Nations aviation agency and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) trade group.

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IATA last month called for an end to in-flight physical distancing rules, proposing a series of measures, some of which are contrary to federal government policies.

Transport Canada has listed physical distance as one of the “key points” in preventing the spread of the virus in a guide published for the aviation industry in April.

“Operators should develop guidelines for passenger spacing on planes where possible to optimize social distance,” said the document.

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Some health experts have pointed out the risks of spreading COVIDs in crowded airports and crowded cabins.

“Once in the cabin, it’s hard to keep the air out,” said Tim Sly, epidemiologist and professor emeritus at the Ryerson University School of Public Health.

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However, Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at Harvard School of Public Health, said that the HEPA air filters used on most aircraft effectively control bacteria and viruses in the air.

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In accordance with federal guidelines, Air Canada and WestJet conduct temperature checks before boarding and require masks on board. They also implemented improved aircraft cleaning and reduced in-flight service in late March, cutting out hot drinks, hot meals and fresh food.

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“The new measures will continue to build on recommendations from ICAO (the United Nations International Civil Aviation Organization) and others that a multi-level strategy for the safety of COVID-19 is the more efficient, “said Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick in an email.

WestJet said its online booking would return to normal on Wednesday.

“To move forward, our cabin crew are able to assist if there is space to accommodate and we encourage guests to discuss the seating arrangement with them once on board,” said spokeswoman Morgan Bell said.

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Canadians are starting to brave air travel again as containment measures gain momentum, although Manitoba and the Maritimes still have strong restrictions on interprovincial travel while other provinces discourage it.

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WestJet-owned low-cost airline Swoop added eight weekly flights in June and another 12 in July after the carrier reduced its capacity to one flight line a day – Halifax-Hamilton-Edmonton-Abbotsford and vice -versed.

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“We are currently in this minus 95% mode,” said Swoop president Charles Duncan in an interview. “It’s not much worse than that. ”

But hope is looming on the horizon.

“At the peak, it was common to have fewer than 20 people on an airplane. But from Vancouver earlier, I brought 65. Earlier in the day from Edmonton to Vancouver, we had over 100, “said WestJet flight attendant Chris Rauenbusch, section president CUPE local 4070.

To reduce optimism, the border closure between Canada and the United States was extended last week until July 21. Emergency orders under the Quarantine Law also prevent foreign travelers from entering the country for non-essential reasons such as tourism or recreation.


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