World news – Canadian airlines in Ottawa have agreed to suspend flights to the Caribbean and Mexico

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Solarina Ho
CTVNews.ca Writer

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TORONTO –
The federal government and Canada’s major airlines announced on Friday that flights to sun destinations will be suspended until May to help curb the spread of COVID-19 and its variants.

Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat will be canceling flights to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico from January 31 to April 30, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in a press conference on Friday.

The airlines will make arrangements with customers currently traveling in the affected regions to organize their return flights, he added.

According to the airlines, the new measures affect 15 Air Canada destinations and 14 WestJet destinations. Air Transat announced on its website that due to these new restrictions, regular operations will be suspended until the end of April.

Air Canada plans to operate a series of one-way commercial flights from affected destinations after January 31st to bring customers back to Canada. The company said in a press release that customers affected by the new rules will be « offered full refunds as services are suspended with no alternative available. »

WestJet said it was working to bring its guests who are already vacationing back to Canada over the next two weeks and would inform those booked to travel during the affected period of their options. Air Transat also said it is working on a repatriation plan for all of its customers and will release details shortly.

Sunwing is offering full refunds to customers with canceled bookings and is currently notifying overseas travelers of changes to existing flights.

« This decision was not made lightly, but as something we deemed necessary given the COVID-19 pandemic. It is based on ongoing collaboration with the government and the Canadian aviation industry. » a Sunwing spokesman said in a statement.

Trudeau said the government appreciated the way airlines worked quickly to repatriate Canadians in the early days of the pandemic and stressed the importance of staying home during the second wave.

« Given the challenges we are currently facing with COVID-19 domestically and internationally, we all agree that now is simply not the time to fly. »

In addition to these measures, Trudeau said that starting next week all international passenger flights will only be allowed to land in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal.

The new measures follow Trudeau’s announcement that all travelers returning from overseas will have to take a COVID-19 PCR test at the airport if they land and quarantine a specific hotel for up to three days at their own expense. This is expected to be more than $ 2,000.

Those who test negative are allowed to quarantine themselves at home for the remainder of the mandatory two-week period, but under significantly increased surveillance and enforcement. However, those who test positive must be immediately quarantined in certain government facilities to ensure they are not carrying any of the variants that have been of concern around the world.

In the coming weeks, non-essential travelers will have to present a negative test before entering the U.S. land border, Trudeau said, adding that the government is working on additional testing requirements for land travel.

Conservatives criticized the Trudeau administration for not acting earlier, but also called for a clearer timetable for when the restrictions would be relaxed.

« We were the first to call on the government to secure the border at the start of the pandemic. » The liberals were too slow to act. We are now in the pandemic for a year and we are not using what we learned from the first wave. Opposition leader Erin O’Toole said in a statement on Friday.

Trudeau said the government is taking tough action now and is committed to a safe restart of travel and tourism once conditions improve, « ideally later this year ».

Ottawa and the airlines will work together on the future of COVID-19 testing and quarantine requirements, he added.

« This will enable the safe and gradual return to international air travel based on science and evidence. »

An aircraft is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, BC on May 13, 2019. (Jonathan Hayward / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

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