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

B.C. highway widening job reduced, costs still up $61 million

Union-only project scales back work to widen Trans-Canada

Salmon Arm pool to reopen for limited programming, not drop ins

Strict sanitization protocols in place including one-hour closure between scheduled swims

Vehicle incident stalls traffic on Highway 1 east of Salmon Arm

Drive BC reports road closed, assessment underway

Sicamous business duo broaden downtown beach vibe

Jody Boychuk and Eddy Johnston enjoying bigger, brighter Sicamous location

Milestone RCMP Cops For Kids fundraiser ride going virtual

You can join and help RCMP raise funds for families and possibly win 20th anniversary cycling shirt

Lower Mainland woman says llama farming neighbour shot her 11-month-old pup

Young dog was on owner’s Maple Ridge property when it was killed on June 21

B.C. records 31 new cases, six deaths over three days due to COVID-19

There are 166 active cases in B.C., 16 people in hospital

Police issue warning after baby comes across suspected drugs in Kamloops park

The 11-month-old girl’s mother posted photos on social media showing a small plastic bag containing a purple substance

Kamloops man pleads guilty in vehicle-ramming incident that injured a Mountie

Adam Hibbert was arrested following a collision during a police pursuit on May 26, 2019

Greater Victoria nanny pleads guilty to child porn, sexual interference charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to slew of sex crimes

Victoria man dies after skydiving incident on Vancouver Island

34-year-old had made more than 1,000 jumps

Most Read