The union that represents 59,000 pilots across Canada and the U.S. said the federal government’s new travel announcement “doesn’t do enough” in helping the industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tim Perry, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, said that the plan lacks clarity going forward even though the move represented a “positive step.”
New rules announced by the federal government Monday (June 21) will allow fully vaccinated Canadian citizens and permanent residents to bypass quarantine requirements, including the expensive hotel quarantine for air travellers, as long as they provide proof of vaccination and test negative for COVID-19 prior to flight and upon arrival.
However, the border remains closed and travel into the country remains the domain of Canadians and other essential travellers.
“I think that doing away with the quarantine hotel and the (other) quarantine makes sense, we’ve been calling for that for some time,” Perry told Black Press Media by phone Tuesday.
“There’s no reason to differentiate between a fully vaccinated U.S. citizen or a fully vaccinated Canadian.”
Speaking at a press conference Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that while fully vaccinated travellers may themselves be protected, the new measures were aimed at protecting people in Canada who may not be fully immunized.
“Full vaccincation is good for protection but if you’re returning to a community that is only partially (vaccinated) or with low levels of vaccination, that is a risk to public health,” Trudeau said, noting that keeping borders shut reduces the flow of travellers into Canada as provinces continue to struggle through the pandemic.
Unlike the U.S., Canada has not released guidance for the more than 20 per cent of its population that is fully vaccinated. In the U.S., the Center for Disease Control has allowed fully immunized individuals to take off their masks, even when in the presence of unvaccinated people. In a brief released in late March, the U.S. CDC said that people fully vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine “are less likely to have asymptomatic infection or to transmit SARS-CoV-2 to others.”
Perry said that the pilots’s association is not advocating to a full return to travel right now – just a plan.
“We’re not advocating to cut corners or travel prematurely. In fact, we have been very careful not to say it’s time to travel since the very beginning,” he said.
“We’ve been calling for a plan, not even necessarily tied to dates, but tied to metrics… that have been established internationally for a long time and that Canada has been slow on adopting.”
Pilots, and other airline staff, Perry noted, were largely vaccinated in phase 2 of provincial vaccination plans as essential workers. Those pilots he said, are still largely laid off as travel throughout Canada, and outside of the country, continues to stagnate.
“We have thousands of pilots laid off, and other leading nations in economies are bringing their their workers back to work,” he said, noting that the industry will need time to retrain pilots and get planes up in the air and ready to go.
“We’re not only worried about losing the travel season, and the work and the jobs, but we’re also worried about long term impacts on the market share, which will have a long term impact on our jobs, and careers and the profession here.”