Airlines and government agencies working to get Canadians home during COVID-19 pandemic

For any Canadians still stranded abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic who wish to come home, Global Affairs Canada is coordinating special flights with airline partners like Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing, Swoop and Air Transat.

Canadians travellers are strongly encouraged to register with Global Affairs Canada in order for the federal government to provide information to them as soon as it becomes available. For emergency help you can contact [email protected].

“The COVID 19 pandemic has created an unprecedented crisis in the global aviation industry that is already having a significant impact on the air transport industry, travellers, shippers and the economy. Right now, our priority is to help Canadians who are abroad to return to Canada,” said The Honourable Marc Garneau, Minister of Transport this weekend. “The Government of Canada is working with Air Canada (and other airlines) to bring Canadians home from locations that are particularly challenging. I am pleased to see these flights beginning this weekend.”

In the last week, Air Canada has brought more than 200,000 Canadians back home through its regularly scheduled flights and plans to operate more than 300 flights until the end of March from international destinations and more than 850 from the Unite States in order, to enable hundreds of thousands more Canadians to return home.

WestJet  announced that between Monday, March 23 and Wednesday, March 25, the airline will operate 34 repatriation flights to international and trans-border destinations to ensure the safe return of Canadians who remain abroad.

These new flights are in addition to the 10 flights that WestJet has operated  last week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced it was time for Canadians to come home. WestJet  said that it will continue to add flights as the need is identified.

“In the face of this global crisis, WestJetters are dedicated to bringing Canadians home,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO.

WestJet and WestJet Vacations guests with current reservations on or after March 23 will receive, if they have not already, an email notification of their schedule change. All guests are urged to check the status of their flight and their emails for the most up-to-date information pertaining to their revised departure.

Any remaining seats on these flights are now also available for booking to the Canadian public and are capped at the airline’s lowest economy fare for Canadians who require transportation home.

Air Transit announced on March 18 a gradual temporary halting of all its flights until April 30 as a result of the pandemic.

Operations are being stopped gradually in order to enable Transat to repatriate as many of its customers as possible to their home countries.

As of March 18, some 65,000 Canadian Transat customers were at Sun or Europe destinations. By March 22, about 40,000, or more than 60 per cent of them, had been returned to Canada.

The company also announced that it was forced to  temporarily lay off about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada. The final Air Transat flight prior to the full suspension of its operations is scheduled for April 1.

Budget carrier Swoop also announced that it is altering its international operations to help with the global efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19. As of Monday, March 23, Swoop suspended all international and tran-sborder flights and has begun.

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) also announced that it is prepared to help Canadians who have been outside of Canada for an extended period and are heeding the advice of the government of to return home.

At land borders, Canadian citizens and permanent residents not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 infection will be provided with important health advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada and must isolate for 14 days. Those exhibiting symptoms will be provided a mask and be referred to a health professional when seeking entry to Canada.

In exceptional circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, some Canadians may need to cross the border in a United States (U.S.)-plated vehicle in order to get home. The CBSA will facilitate entry for Canadians driving U.S. plated vehicles by permitting the temporary import of U.S vehicles without paying duties and taxes, subject to certain conditions.

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