New COVID test requirements could strand B.C. travellers outside of Canada

New COVID test requirements could strand B.C. travellers outside of Canada

WestJet is removing some 30% of its now planned February 2021 and March 2021 capacity from its schedule, amounting to a more than 80% reduction year over year.

In a statement this evening, Aer Lingus said it will seek evidence of the PCR test at boarding when the rules come into place.

A molecular polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which involves a deep nasal swab and is distinct from a rapid test, must be administered less than 72 hours before takeoff, or 96 hours in the case of two dozen countries, mostly in the Caribbean.

"Immediately following the federal government's inbound testing announcement on december 31, and with the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, we saw significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations", said Ed Sims, WestJet's chief executive, in a statement on Friday.

Air Canada appears to be bucking back against the federal government's official pandemic guidelines (which ask everyone to refrain from travel) as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on - this time, by paying people to promote tropical vacations on social media.

Airlines are scrambling to draw up lists of overseas agencies and test centres for travellers to use, though Garneau said Transport Canada may publish a similar list down the line.

WestJet announced that 1,000 jobs are being cut and hundreds of flights are being cancelled amid the COVID-19 restrictions.

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While Canada's new travel rules are set to kick in on January 7, 2021, some countries have been granted a temporary exemption by the federal government.

WestJet said on Thursday it could not board the passengers because they did not have eligible tests to meet the requirement. "We will follow the evolution of the situation closely in the coming days", said Transat spokesman Christophe Hennebelle. After the new cuts are made, WestJet will have reduced its capacity roughly 80 per cent from a year ago.

Air Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether its flights or employees are affected. "If this industry collapses not only will jobs in our sector vanish, but so will jobs across multiple other sectors".

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the challenges facing Canada's airlines - and passengers who had their travel plans halted - while addressing the media Friday morning.

In October, WestJet suspended service to four Atlantic Canada cities and laid off 100 corporate employees, after laying off 4,000 workers since the pandemic began. WestJet says it has 5,700 active employees and 5,200 inactive employees, at present.

WestJet issued an "urgent notice" to passengers slated to fly home this weekend from Montego Bay, where there is a "lack of testing capacity" the company said.

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