OTTAWA, Canada – The minister of transport, Marc Garneau, on August 14, 2020, announced Canada’s Flight Plan for Navigating COVID-19 (Canada’s Flight Plan), which is the foundation for Canada’s current and future efforts to reduce the public health risks of COVID-19 while travelling by aircraft. This action plan puts in place a multi-layered system of safety measures to support public health by protecting air travellers and air industry workers from COVID-19.
The government of Canada has worked with public health authorities, counterparts around the world, and industry partners to develop a plan for COVID safety in air travel that is aligned to emerging global safety standards and best practices.
Minister of transport Marc Garneau, said: “Canada is a large country and safe and secure air travel is critical for Canadians to connect with loved ones and for those who rely on it to support their businesses. Implementing Canada’s Flight Plan reinforces our ongoing commitment to protect public health and minimize the COVID-19 risks associated with air travel. This comprehensive plan aligns the actions of government and industry partners to the best practices emerging around the world to protect passengers and air industry workers from COVID-19.”
Key changes apply to all aspects of air travel, including in airports and aircraft. They include travel restrictions; mandatory use of face masks for passengers and crew; mandatory health checks by air carriers prior to passenger boarding; temperature screening at the busiest Canadian airports and at points of origin for all incoming flights to Canada; restricted services and passenger movement during flights; and enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols and practices.
In airports, these designs and measures include enhanced air conditioning and filtration systems; frequent cleaning of high-touch areas; new touchless technologies to scan boarding passes; and physical distancing measures. Modern passenger aircraft also offer a unique environment with design characteristics that reduce the risk of viral transmission. The air is exchanged at a high rate, with HEPA filtration in most large commercial aircraft. Further, the potential spread of the virus between rows is reduced by the high seatbacks and the fact that almost all passengers are seated in the same direction.
These measures prioritize the safety and security of travellers and industry employees, and have positioned Canada as an international leader in reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19 while travelling by air. To date, the government of Canada is not aware of any cases attributed to passenger-to-passenger transmission on a flight to or from Canada. However, work continues with the provinces and territories to strengthen contact-tracing processes to reduce and quantify the risk of COVID-19 transmission during air travel.
Canada’s Flight Plan will be refined as the government of Canada learns more about COVID-19, and as international best practices evolve to ensure safety and efficiency of the Canadian aviation system in the months and years to come.