January 15th, 2021

Travel industry disappointed as Ottawa forges on with COVID-19 testing requirements

By The Canadian Press on January 6, 2021.

CALGARY – Canada’s travel industry is reacting with disappointment after hopes for a last-minute extension to new COVID-19 testing requirements for international travellers were dashed by Transport Minister Marc Garneau.

On New Year’s Eve, Ottawa announced that travellers flying to Canada as of Jan. 7 would have to provide proof of negative COVID-19 test result in order to board their flight.

The industry asked for an eleven day delay in implementation to Jan. 18 but Garneau said Wednesday the restrictions had to start as of midnight Wednesday because that’s when Canada’s ban on flights from the United Kingdom would expire.

Ottawa travel agent Nancy Wilson, a founding member of the Association of Canadian Independent Travel Advisors, says she’s disappointed the implementation wasn’t delayed.

She says the update by Garneau failed to address key concerns the industry has about what advice to give clients who are in the midst of travelling or considering travelling and could leave agents liable if clients’ travel schedules are disrupted.

The airline industry asked Ottawa for a delay in implementing the new rules in a letter dated Monday and signed by Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing, along with the International Air Transportation Association and National Airlines Council of Canada.

It warned that Canadians stand to be denied boarding and “stranded” in foreign countries because of the regulations.

“Given the lack of clarity around the details, we have not been able to provide adequate guidance to our customers at destination, and have now collectively heard from thousands of Canadians who are deeply concerned about their ability to return home,” it reads.

“Minister, given the urgency of this matter and the real risk that Canadians will now be stranded abroad, we look forward to your timely response.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 6, 2021.

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Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated that the IATA asked for a one-week delay to the travel regime implementation.

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