Canadian airports and cities

National aspirations, regional deviations – airports apply their own rules for reopening

While masks are a growing requirement across the country, airports take their own approaches to keeping passengers safe

Plastic film covers desks and kiosks in a closed domestic check-in area at Vancouver International Airport June 18, 2020 (photo: Brett Ballah).

Montreal’s Pearson International has introduced the country’s stritest measures in response to COVID-19, highlighting a disparity between Canadian airports as they begin to ramp up service from the depths of the pandemic.

Montreal’s measures, announced Friday, include closing all terminal doors except three and mandating temperature checks for anyone the minute they walk through the door. Passengers will also have to answer health questions at these stations and sanitize their hands before they are allowed into the building to check their bags.

It’s among a host of announcements this week by Canada’s airports, seeking to reassure a nervous public about the safety of air travel.

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“The health and safety of our passengers and employees has always been our top priority,” said Philippe Rainville, President and Chief Executive Officer of Aéroports de Montréal. “We believe that these new measures, combined with the measures already in place and the increased vigilance of passengers, will significantly limit the spread of the virus in our facilities and make travellers want to come back and visit us at YUL. The entire airport community looks forward to welcoming them back.”

Montreal’s announcement followed a similar move Thursday by Vancouver International – the country’s second-busiest airport – announcing new measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Joyce Carter, Chair of the Canadian Airports Council issued a call to governments: national health screening standards were urgently needed to rebuild the public’s confidence in air travel.

“One set of rules to ensure that passengers know what to expect and are certain that their health and safety are being protected at every stage of their journey,” Carter wrote in an op-ed published in the National Newswatch.

BELOW: Click on the map to see what measures each airport is taking

A government travel advisory is still in effect, warning Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country. Within Canada, some provincial and territorial governments have imposed restrictions or self-isolation periods for people entering their jurisdictions.

But, sensing a slow restart to the summer travel season, Air Canada and Westjet have announced a doubling of their schedules in July (though still down significantly from last year’s travel), Transat is planning to re-start flights, and ultra low-cost carriers Flair and Swoop have beefed up their domestic networks.

That means airports are preparing for a small but growing number of passengers passing through their terminals. But while airports are calling for national standards, in the details, important local differences begin to appear.

Here is a summary of some of the key steps airports are taking to reassure the travelling public.

Terminal access

Terminal access is one of two great differentiators among Canadian airports (the other being a requirement to wear masks). Toronto-Pearson International, the country’s busiest hub, banned access to its terminals June 1 except passengers, crew, and attendants for children or people with limited mobility.

  • Montreal and Vancouver ban non-passengers
  • Halifax will ban non-passengers June 22
  • In Calgary, it is recommended visitors not enter
  • Ottawa, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Regina, and Saskatoon have not imposed terminal restrictions
  • Victoria offers free parking for people coming to pick up a traveller

Masks

  • Masks are required for passengers and crew/staff when passing through security and generally on board aircraft
  • Several airports – Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, and Ottawa – require masks inside terminals
  • Halifax will require masks starting June 22
  • Winnipeg, Victoria and Regina do no require masks in public areas but ask people to consider using one

“If you’re unable to social distance at approximately two metres, you should put on a mask,” said James Bogusz of Regina International in a Twitter post. “You don’t have to have one and you don’t have to wear one in the terminal, we do leave that up to each passenger.”

Physical distancing

  • All airports have put signs and stickers reminding people of the importance of physical distancing
  • Edmonton and Saskatoon have shut down every other check-in kiosk to help keep people apart
  • Montreal is allowing passengers to book security times to minimize the time they spend in the terminal
Robyn McVicker of Vancouver International Airport explains new measures to ensure airport health and cleanliness June 18, 2020 (edited by Brett Ballah).

Cleaning

From electrostatic cleaners that spray disinfecting bleach to rapid response teams, cleaning is one area where every airport has stepped up its game. And rather than be a function hidden from passengers in the overnight hours, airports are asking cleaners to be visible, another step to reassure a nervous public.

“Travel with Confidence” video produced for passengers at Montreal-Trudeau International Airport (Aéroports de Montréal).

CORRECTION: A previous edition of this article stated Joyce Carter was the President of the Canadian Airports Council. She is the organization’s Chair.

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