An Air Canada flight departing for Toronto, bottom, taxis to a runway as a Westjet flight bound for Palm Springs takes off at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., on Friday, March 20, 2020. British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix says he wants to see the evidence that it’s safe for the country’s two largest airlines to drop their in-flight distancing policies during the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

B.C. says show us evidence safe to fly if airlines drop in-flight distancing

Air Canada and WestJet announced they are ending their on-board seat distancing policies

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix says he wants to see the evidence that it’s safe for the country’s two largest airlines to drop their in-flight distancing policies during the pandemic.

“What I’d like to hear from Transport Canada, from Health Canada is do they agree with this,” Dix told a news conference on Monday. “The safety of passengers and the safety of all people in B.C., of Canada, in particular for us in B.C. is very important.”

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said spacing policies on airplanes are not within her jurisdiction, but she assumed there was evidence to support the move.

“We are concerned,” Henry said. “It’s an environment that we know people spend a lot of time in close contact with each other.”

She said it is important that people wear masks during flights and continue to practise physical distancing. People should not be travelling if they are ill, Henry said, adding that she would like to see passenger screening for signs of sickness before flights.

Air Canada and WestJet announced they are ending their on-board seat distancing policies starting Wednesday.

The carriers said Friday they will follow health recommendations from the United Nation’s aviation agency and the International Air Transport Association trade group.

Transport Canada said in a statement it issued guidance to the aviation industry, including recommendations for passenger spacing, but it is not mandatory.

“As physical distancing may not always be possible, all travellers, except those under the age of two years, and certain individuals with medical conditions, are required to wear a non-medical mask or face covering when travelling by air,” said the statement.

“Transport Canada will also now require temperature screenings for passengers at select airports.”

READ MORE: B.C. records 26 new cases over last three days; plan coming for long-term care visits

Air Canada said it is offering flexible rebooking options to those travelling in its economy class on flights that are close to capacity.

“While we would all like a single measure that reduces risk, we are left to use a combination of approaches to mitigate risk as far as practical,” it said in a statement.

The airline says it has taken steps that allow passengers to travel using touchless processes at the airport to obtain bag tags and boarding cards.

“We intend to continue evaluating new processes and technologies as they become available to further enhance safety.”

WestJet could not be reached for comment, but it has said its cabin crew can assist customers if there is space to accommodate them.

Dix said he would like to hear from the federal agencies to allay fears or explain why they’ve allowed Air Canada and WestJet to end the seat-distancing policies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The minister said he will discuss the policy change with his provincial counterparts, adding he’s looking for more than just a business case from the airlines.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Air TravelCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

BC Cancer mobile mammography coach coming to Haida Gwaii this month

Breast cancer screening appointments still available; clients asked to bring a face mask

Haida Gwaii residents to be allowed conditional entry to Gwaii Haanas next month

Gwaii Haanas will reopen Aug. 1 to people who ‘attest to a set of specific conditions’ set out by CHN

Following incident at sea, fishing lodge says it will reopen despite Haida travel ban

QCL reopens July 10, says president; Haida chief councillor describes ‘dangerous’ boating encounter

More than $1.2 million announced for Masset water treatment plant upgrades

Residents of Masset, Old Massett to benefit from $1,241,500 in joint provincial-federal funding

From the archives of the Haida Gwaii Observer

50 YEARS AGO (1970): Highways Minister Wesley Black visited the islands and… Continue reading

Horrifying video shows near head-on collision on Trans Canada

The video was captured on dash cam along Highway 1

Fraser Valley woman complains of violent RCMP takedown during wellness check

Mounties respond that she was not co-operating during Mental Health Act apprehension

B.C. sees 12 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths

Three outbreaks exist in health-care settings

Lost dog swims Columbia River multiple times searching for home

The dog was missing from his Castlegar home for three days.

COVID-19: B.C. promotes video-activated services card

Mobile app allows easier video identity verification

ICBC to resume road tests in July with priority for rebookings, health-care workers

Tests have been on hold for four months due to COVID-19

Would you take a COVID-19 vaccine? Poll suggests most Canadians say yes

75 per cent of Canadians would agree to take a novel coronavirus vaccine

Budget officer pegs cost of basic income as calls for it grow due to COVID-19

Planned federal spending to date on pandemic-related aid now tops about $174 billion

Most Read