The federal government made two major announcements recently that will have a significant impact on Canadians looking to escape the cold and on anyone flying into Canada from another country. In an attempt to reduce COVID numbers, some major airlines will be restricting their lists of destinations and incoming travellers will be facing increased expense and quarantine protocols.
Bad news for would-be travellers as four of Canada’s major airlines have agreed to suspend service to Mexico and the Caribbean as of January 31. The airlines involved are Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Air Transat. All four airlines agreed to the measure in order to slow the spread of COVID-19, which may be partially related to vacationers returning to Canada after unnecessary travel.
The suspension is set to last until April 30, when it will likely be lifted as the weather in Canada becomes warmer. If you are in Mexico or one of the impacted Caribbean countries already, the airline you had originally booked your flight with will help to arrange a way home for you so you will not be stuck.
The suspension of flights will cause a great economic blow to the impacted countries, as many of them rely on tourism for a significant portion of their annual revenue. For example, Jamaica’s tourism minister estimates that Jamaica is set to lose $449 million as a result of the change. Further, some of the countries involved in the suspension have implemented similar testing and quarantine requirements in order to comply with Canadian and American regulations, so they feel that the suspension of flights has come at the worst possible time. With no mass suspension of flights to the United States, would-be travellers to the Caribbean and Mexico are choosing instead to visit America for a warm vacation. However, Canadians travelling south will all be subject to the new entry regulations that are being put into place, should they decide to fly home.
The airlines suspending service to certain destinations come comes amidst new regulations regarding mandatory hotel stays for all air travellers arriving in Canada. The new regulations were announced on January 29 and will be put into effect soon. Under the new regulations, international flights will only be able to land at four selected airports across Canada; Vancouver International Airport, Calgary International Airport, Toronto Pearson Airport and Montreal-Trudeau Airport.
The government is still reminding prospective passengers that travel is restricted for non-essential purposes. However, if you have an essential purpose, or fit under one of the exceptions, you will be subject to the new regulations upon arrival. All travellers entering Canada by air, with limited exceptions, will be required to undergo a three-day hotel stay before moving on to their quarantine destination. Upon arriving at one of the four airports, travellers will undergo molecular COVID-19 testing at the airport, and then will be required to head directly to a hotel to await the results.
Travellers must remain in their hotel rooms and will be responsible for all associated costs, including the cost of the hotel room, food, security, infection control and transportation. Travellers will only be permitted to leave the hotel once they have done the following:
Once the hotel stay is done, travellers still must complete the rest of the mandatory 14-day quarantine in a suitable location. The acceptable hotels will be government-approved and near an airport so if you are planning to travel you will be able to see before you arrive where you can stay. Some are estimating the cost of the hotel stay and all the associated costs could end up costing travellers around $2,000 for the three days. This adds a significant amount on top of the cost of flights. It is worth noting that travellers still need a negative test prior to boarding a flight to Canada, despite the new regulations requiring a test upon arrival. These new regulations will make it significantly harder for anyone to fly into Canada, because of the prohibitive cost and waiting periods.
Make sure you stay updated on regional restrictions and regulations before you make travel arrangements. If you are planning to travel, make sure you qualify as essential or prepare an exemption request. Depending on where you are going, you may also need a 14-day quarantine plan. If you have questions about where you can travel, please do not hesitate to contact us.
The immigration lawyers at Garson Immigration Law are continuing to monitor the immigration fallout in relation to COVID-19 on both sides of the border and will provide updates as the situation develops. If you have any questions about your potential classification as essential or about how you should comply with the changing regulations, do not hesitate to reach out to us online or by calling us at 416-321-2860.