Air Canada

A Hawaii holiday for Christmas becoming a realistic option for Canadians

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Governor of island state opens the door to Canadians to take a COVID test before departure

Westjet and Air Canada flights to Hawaii begin in December

Air Canada plans to fly Boeing 787 Dreamliners from Vancouver to Hawaii starting in December (photo: Brett Ballah).

A Hawaii holiday is becoming a more realistic option for Canadians, as the state opens its doors to people with negative COVID tests in time for Christmas.

Alone among U.S. states, Hawaii requires negative COVID tests or imposes a 14-day quarantine period on visitors. It’s similar to a quarantine period Canada imposes on international travellers. A pilot program in Calgary substitutes negative COVID tests for arriving international travellers in place of the quarantine.

“Beginning in mid-December, travellers flying from Canada to Hawaii may bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine if they take the COVID-19 test,” Governor David Ige announced Thursday. The change came the same day the province of British Columbia warned residents “do not travel for a vacation” because of rising COVID infections.

Passengers have to take a test within 72 hours of their flight to Hawaii. And they’ll have to have their negative test result in hand before they get on the plane.

The new policy comes with some wrinkles to be ironed out. For instance, the airlines have to identify testing partners. Air Canada said more information would be coming soon.

Westjet has identified Dynalife as its partner. The lab offers tests for $150 per person. The catch? Tests are only available in Alberta, though they are open to all citizens. Presumably, Canadians wanting to visit Hawaii would have to plan a stop in Calgary on the way.

Westjet is working with Vancouver International Airport on pre-departure testing, though it was not immediately clear if the tests will be accepted by Hawaiian officials. Details of the Vancouver trial are expected soon.

Hawaii a popular holiday destination

“Hawaii has long been a popular destination for Canadians,” said Tim Liu the Managing Director of Sales Planning at Air Canada. “And it is an important spoke in our global network.”

Air Canada will launch seven flights a week from Vancouver to Hawaii starting December 17 on Boeing 787 Dreamliners. Additional service from Calgary to Maui launches a day later.

“This is a very exciting day,” said Angela Avery, Executive Vice President at Westjet. “Hawaii really is the very first place that’s a safe corridor for travel from Canada. So we look forward to stimulating air travel and creating new opportunities for guests between our two countries.”

Westjet plans nine flights a week between Canada and Hawaii over the Christmas period.

The government of Canada continues to advise against all non-essential travel outside the country. That uncertainty means airlines aren’t sure how many people will want to take their holiday in paradise.

“It’s early days for us to be able to predict how many Canadians will avail themselves of the safe travels programme,” said Avery.

“Based on the feedback that we’ve had from the trade, there is a lot of excitement about Hawaii,” said Air Canada’s Liu. “And we do believe that it will be a positive market looking forward.”

Testing procedure

Air Canada will release its process for Hawaii-bound passengers in the coming days. The airline also plans to publish a list of facilities approved to administer COVID tests.

Westjet has outlined a five step procedure for passengers planning a Hawaii holiday.

  1. Set up a Safe Travels Hawaii account for each travelling adult at travel.hawaii.gov.
  2. Take a test at a DynaLIFE participating pharmacy location within 72-hours of their flight departing to Hawaii.
  3. Complete the Travel Health Questionnaire on Safe Travels within 24 hours of their flight departure to receive a personalized QR code.
  4. Display the Safe Travels QR code and negative test result from DynaLIFE during boarding.
  5. Complete the final screening process upon arrival into Hawaii by showing the personalized QR code, negative test results, government ID, and be prepared to demonstrate their method of communication for the daily health check-in (i.e. cell phone).

Both airlines said gate agents will be responsible for checking that passengers have their clean bill of health before they get on a plane.

For those who don’t get their results in time?

“We do offer our customers the option to rebook at no fee to a later flight should their test come out not conclusive or they need more time to obtain a test,” said Liu. Westjet offers a similar policy.

Many happy returns

In 2018, the last year for which data are available, more than 1.1 million Canadians took a holiday in Hawaii. This year, as expected, the number will be far lower.

Hawaii Governor David Ige announces a policy change allowing Canadians who test negative for COVID to bypass the state’s 14-day quarantine (photo: Hawaii Governor’s Office).

“Obviously, it’s not as many flights as we would have liked,” said Avery. “Pre-COVID we would have had a lot more traffic, but we think this is a really good step in the right direction.”

“We especially look forward to having our Canadian snow birds home in Hawaii for the winter season,” said Ige. “Canada is the second-largest international market to Hawaii, so their commitment to provide safe travel to our islands is an important next step. Canada and Hawaii share close bonds and we have been overwhelmed with the calls and emails from our Canadian friends asking when they can safely come back to Hawaii.”

The governor joked that Maui is such a popular destination for Canadians, some consider it the 11th province.

“Maui looks forward to the return of our Canadian snow birds, our brothers and sisters,” said Maui mayor Michael Victorino. “A true aloha spirit exists between us and Canada.”

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