Canada’s Airlines Seek Passenger Vaccine Mandate Clarification

A new Canadian Government ruling that mandates COVID-19 vaccinations for airline passengers is causing some disquiet among the country’s airline industry. The National Airlines Council of Canada (NAAC) says timelines are tight and queries the lack of consultation.

Only vaccinated travelers will be allowed to board a plane in Canada from October 30. Photo: Getty Images

No vax, no-fly says Canada’s Government

While Canada is welcoming its citizens and permanent residents home along with fully vaccinated foreign nationals, to date, the vaccination rules have applied to inbound international travelers only.

But this week, the Canadian Government decided Canadians need to be fully vaccinated to board a plane in Canada from October 30.

“Travelers departing from Canadian airports, and travelers on VIA Rail and Rocky Mountaineer trains, will be required to be fully vaccinated in order to travel,” says a statement from the Canadian Government.

There will be a one-month grace period for partially vaccinated travelers to finalize the vaccination process. The vaccination requirement will apply to all travelers 12 years of age and older. Fines up to CA$5,000 per person may apply.

Canada’s National Airlines Council flags some concerns

Canada will become one of the few countries in the world to link domestic as well as international travel to a person’s vaccination status. However, Ottawa is unapologetic, saying vaccinations are Canada’s best line of defense against COVID-19 and its variants.

The NAAC says it and Canada’s airlines are committed to protecting employee and passenger health and have fully supported travel and employee vaccination requirements to date. The industry lobby group has spent much of the year calling for Canada’s borders to reopen safely.

But on Wednesday, NAAC called out the Canadian Government for its lack of industry engagement, short timelines, and failure to quickly develop a uniform digitized proof of vaccination for air travel.

“Further to today’s announcement, we are urgently looking forward to immediate engagement with officials on the implementation details and proposed regulations, including the responsibilities of government agencies,” reads a NAAC statement.

“Timelines are very tight to implement the travel rules.  While we are committed to effective implementation, it is imperative that the federal government quickly develop a standardized and digital proof of vaccination for air travel.”

A few kinks to iron out before October 30

Ottowa says it is in the process of developing a “pan-Canadian, secure, and standardized proof of vaccination for international travel” that will serve to prove vaccination status. But the Canadian Government acknowledges it remains a work in process. With an October 30 deadline looming, there’s not a lot of time left to get the platform up and running.

“The current blanket federal travel advisories also need to be reconsidered, given that the new rules will require air travelers leaving Canada to also be fully vaccinated,” the NAAC adds.

The real or perceived lack of consultation with the airline industry and the lack of clarity regarding the rules has been a long-running sore point with the NAAC.

The Canadian Government says there will be limited exceptions to address specific situations such as emergency travel and those medically unable to be vaccinated. The particular needs of travelers from small, remote communities are also acknowledged. The Government will engage with Indigenous organizations to ensure they retain access to essential services regardless of vaccination status.

Do you agree with the latest vaccination ruling from the Canadian Government? Should you have to prove your status to travel? Post a comment and let us know.