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

Just Posted

COTR honours Orange Shirt Day

A virtual event to raise awareness about Orange Shirt Day is being hosted early on Sept. 22

Invermere gets new CAO

Invermere found his new CAO after a long period of research.

Radium council discusses short term rentals

RHS council are elaborating the second draft plan for STR

Farmers’ Institute report highlights emerging local food scene

Beef cattle ranching remains mainstay of valley agriculture

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Search suspended for Indigenous elder last seen mushroom picking in northwest B.C.

Mushroom picker Thomas (Tommy) Dennis has been missing since Sept. 16

Ahead of likely second wave, 60% of Canadians relaxing COVID-19 measures

Proportion of Canadians not following safety measures has dropped by 3 per cent in the past two weeks

Canada’s population tops 38 million, even as COVID-19 pandemic slows growth

Immigration, the top population driver, decreased due to the pandemic

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

Most Read