Airlines slam confusion surrounding Canada's new negative COVID-19 test requirement for passengers
People wearing protective face masks, goggles and Tyvek suits who said they traveled from Colombia gesture while waiting for a car rental company shuttle, after arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Thursday, December 31, 2020. Beginning January 7, air travellers arriving in Canada will be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test conducted within 72 hours of boarding the plane. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
The Canadian Press
Published Monday, January 4, 2021 1:03PM EST
OTTAWA -- Airlines say a slew of questions remain about the federal government's decision to require passengers returning to Canada to show negative results on COVID-19 tests taken abroad.
Transport Minister Marc Garneau announced Thursday that air travellers overseas will have to present proof of a negative molecular test - known as a PCR test, conducted with a nasal swab - that was taken within 72 hours of departure, unless the testing is unavailable in that country.
National Airlines Council of Canada chief executive Mike McNaney says the Transport Department has yet to provide a list of foreign agencies whose tests are considered acceptable or to establish how airline employees should determine whether a test document is valid.
He says the new rule, which mandates a 14-day quarantine in Canada regardless of the test result, will cause “confusion” and “frustration” for carriers and passengers alike.
Air Transat vice-president Christophe Hennebelle says Ottawa announced the requirement, which takes effect this Thursday, “out of the blue” without any prior consultation or notice to industry.
Transport Canada did not immediately respond to questions Monday.
The rule comes as a devastated airline sector continues to bleed cash following a collapse in demand caused by the pandemic.
It also arrives amid growing criticism of the federal sick-leave benefit that pays $500 per week for up to two weeks to Canadians quarantined after touching down from abroad, including after vacations.
Some federal and provincial politicians are among those who chose to travel beyond Canada's borders over the holidays, despite public-health recommendations against non-essential travel.