Canada urged to lift last of its pandemic travel requirements amid huge airport bottlenecks

“Canada no longer needs to screen and screen travelers when they arrive in our country”: President of the Canadian Airports Council

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The group that represents Canada’s airports is calling on the federal government to lift the last vestiges of its pandemic travel requirements after Friday’s announcement that the United States is scrapping all pre-departure testing warrants.

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The administration of US President Joe Biden will stop requiring pre-flight COVID-19 testing for all air travelers to the United States on June 12 at 12:01 p.m. morning, reported the Wall Street Journal. Canada should follow suit, said the Canadian Airports Council.

« This is very good news and I think it speaks to a growing global consensus to lift testing mandates for travel, » said Monette Pasher, the council’s acting chair. « Canada no longer needs to screen and screen travelers upon arrival to our country at our airports. »

In April, the Canadian government scrapped a mandate that required all incoming travelers to provide a negative COVID-19 test before flying into the country, moving instead to random testing of arriving passengers.

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Despite the change, airports and airlines continue to face massive passenger bottlenecks and service disruptions due to overwhelming demand. Pasher said random mandatory testing only increases delays. Add to that severe manpower shortages for security and border checkpoints, and the situation has worsened.

According to some reports, travelers wait for hours to have their carry-on bags checked in or when trying to retrieve their bags. And due to a lack of staff at the terminals, planes have sometimes had to wait just as long on the tarmac before allowing passengers to disembark.

At Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, Air Canada canceled 9% of its scheduled flights between June 1 and June 9, the Canadian Press reported.

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« (Delays) can impact not only our customers, but also the resources and operations of our employees, » Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an emailed statement.

“For example, if an aircraft is held at a gate longer than scheduled or if a flight is suddenly forced to cancel, this can affect the schedules of crews and ground staff servicing the aircraft, disrupting subsequent flights. »

Pearson is the busiest airport in the country, handling more than 30,000 international passengers a day, Pasher said. In comparison, Montréal-Trudeau International Airport welcomes an average of 15,000.

Bottlenecks at Pearson last month caused delays for nearly half a million passengers on international flights, up from a few hundred passengers in May 2019, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said.

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WestJet Airlines Ltd. spokeswoman Madison Kruger said the airline had « proactively canceled a small percentage » of flights at Toronto Pearson this week, but did not say exactly how many.

The company is « extremely concerned » about the « unacceptable » situation at airports and is calling for changes, it said in an emailed statement. « In addition, we continue to advocate for the removal of old pandemic measures. »

If Canada scrapped all travel requirements, it would align itself with countries like Spain, Italy and Israel, jurisdictions that at one time had some of the toughest entry requirements.

« That’s where we see the most lineups, » Pasher said. “(It is) at the entrance of the country. This is the piece that needs more action.

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