British airlines are the first to begin dropping face mask mandates

masked passenger in airplane cabin

Despite some experts stating as recently as last month that face masks on passenger planes would likely be here for years to come, some airlines in the United Kingdom are beginning to drop them.

British carrier Jet2 was the first to abandon them for flights in England and Northern Ireland as the U.K. eased its COVID restrictions. Rival airlines EasyJet, TUI and British Airways have done the same and while they still recommend passengers wear masks, they are optional as long as the flight’s arrival or departure points don’t require them.

Here in Canada, there’s no indication as to when federal mandates for masks on planes and trains will end, but individual provinces are beginning to drop their requirements so it’s likely only a matter of time before they go away.

If you are considering ignoring the rules before that time comes, heed the tale of those Sunwing “New Year’s party” passengers, six more of whom were fined $5,000 this week.

Meanwhile, in the United States, where face coverings have been an especially divisive issue, the United States has extended its mask mandate on aircraft and public transit until at least April 18.

While some of the nation’s flight attendant unions wish the masks were here to stay, the union representing those of Southwest Airlines has asked that the mandate be rescinded.

It’s interesting to note that in Asia, where face mask-wearing is a normal practice during cold and flu season, the number of air rage incidents reported over masking rules has been negligible.

Some medical experts have expressed concern that jurisdictions are removing mask requirements too hastily and that the COVID-19 virus and potential mutations remain a threat as long as the majority of the world’s population remains unvaccinated. For that reason, don’t be surprised if you see fellow passengers continuing to wear masks even when they become optional.

Feeling guilty about vacationing right now? Here’s the reason why

If you’re feeling guilty about booking a holiday while war rages in Ukraine, you should know that you’re not alone and there’s a reason you feel that way.

According to American psychotherapist Akua K. Boateng, it’s completely natural to feel bad about the suffering of others even when you’re not directly affected. It’s known as vicarious traumatization and the symptoms can resemble those of PTSD.

“These feelings parallel survivor’s guilt and/or remorse that manifested with COVID within the past two years,” Boateng recently told HuffPost. “Having guilt surface during this time is a sign of self-compassion and deep empathy for those in our world.”

According to the Office for Victims of Crime, a branch of the United States Department of Justice, individuals respond to vicarious trauma in a number of ways.

“People can either become more cynical or fearful, or they can become more appreciative of what they have, or both. Responses to vicarious trauma can be negative, neutral, or positive; can change over time; and can vary from individual to individual, particularly with prolonged exposure,” notes the OVC website.

The war in Europe is definitely having an effect on visitation to countries that neighbour Ukraine.

In an iNews report, Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tourism Association noted that “the recovery trend for arrivals to Europe since January from long-haul markets has been strong, particularly from the US market. Demand from the States is currently holding up, except for destinations such as Russia, Ukraine and neighbouring countries. This may change.”

One of those countries is Hungary, a destination that is popular for river cruises hosted by companies like Avalon Waterways.

In a Travel Weekly story, the company’s managing director, Pam Hoffee said that American travel agents are hearing from clients who are worried about “celebrating” in Hungary while refugees stream into the country.

“Fear is one thing and it’s harder to overcome,” she said at Clia’s RiverView Conference. “But the fact you’re feeling bad is not a reason not to come.”

Her response to those agents and their worried customers is to remind them what a Visit Hungary representative told her: by supporting Eastern European economies such as Hungary’s, they will be able to continue to help refugees.

If you’re still not ready to book a vacation in this climate, you can use some of these ideas from a therapist on how to cope with any feelings of anxiousness or hopelessness you have about Ukraine, the ongoing pandemic, inflation or any of the other things going on in the world right now.

Canada dropping pre-entry COVID testing, but only for fully vaccinated travellers

Covid test

It’s not an April Fool’s Day joke, the Government of Canada will remove pre-entry test requirement for fully vaccinated travellers arriving by land, sea or air as of April 1.

“Adjustments to Canada’s border measures are made possible by a number of factors, including Canada’s high vaccination rate, the increasing availability and use of rapid tests to detect infection, decreasing hospitalizations and growing domestic availability of treatments for COVID-19,” said Minister of Health Jean-Yves Duclos in a government press release.

Unless otherwise exempt, all travellers eligible to enter Canada who do not qualify as fully vaccinated will continue to be tested with COVID-19 molecular tests on arrival and on Day 8, while they quarantine for 14 days.

Unless otherwise exempt, all unvaccinated or partially vaccinated travellers 5 years of age or older must continue to provide proof of an accepted type of pre-entry COVID-19 test result before arrival.

This means they must produce a valid, negative antigen test, administered or observed by an accredited lab or testing provider, taken outside of Canada no more than one day before their initially scheduled flight departure time or their arrival at the land border or marine port of entry.

Also acceptable is a valid negative molecular test taken no more than 72 hours before their initially scheduled flight departure time or their arrival at the land border or marine port of entry.

Unvaccinated travellers can also enter if they have had a previous positive molecular test taken at least 10 calendar days and no more than 180 calendar days before their initially scheduled flight departure time or their arrival at the land border or marine port of entry. It is important to note that positive antigen test results will not be accepted.

All travellers continue to be required to submit their mandatory information in ArriveCAN (free mobile app or website) before their arrival in Canada. Travellers who arrive without completing their ArriveCAN submission may have to test on arrival and quarantine for 14 days, regardless of their vaccination status. Travellers taking a cruise or a plane must submit their information in ArriveCAN within 72 hours before boarding.

Lifting the pre-entry testing requirements for travellers to Canada will make it easier for Canadians to safely take advantage of emerging opportunities for personal and business travel, as Canada’s transportation system recovers from the pandemic, ” added Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra.

Federal health officials encourage Canadians to continue to do their part to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by getting vaccinated and boosted, using masks where appropriate, self-isolating if they have symptoms and self-testing if they can.

 

Montreal’s incredible Cité Mémoire set to expand

Montreal Cité Memoire

Thanks to $2.6 million in new funding from the federal government, Montréal en Histoires is expanding Cité Mémoire, an innovative project that uses technology to bring the city’s history to life for visitors and locals alike.

Through projected tableaux, a mobile application, and augmented- and virtual-reality videos, the non-profit organization’s Cité Mémoire project is the world’s longest video-projection route.

The tableaux are projected on walls at night in locations throughout the downtown that cover a range of milestones in Montreal’s history, including well-known (and lesser-known) characters, or sometimes a local slice of life while viewers follow along on their smartphones with a free dedicated app.

“Narrative or impressionist, touching or amusing, they express our values of coexistence, innovation, tolerance and generosity that are the foundation of our city,” states the Cité Mémoire website.

Examples include the founding of the city, the burning of parliament when Montreal was the capital of the Province of Canada, the founding of the world in the words of the Anishinaabe people, and many more.

With the newly-announced funding from Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, Montréal en Histoires will add routes and tableaux to Cité Mémoire and update its mobile application.

“After the two years we have spent with the pandemic, this major contribution is healthy for the organization, enabling us to develop and enhance our works and routes through the downtown area, as well as right across the entire Île de Montréal area. It is enabling the organization to look to the future with optimism,” said Martin Laviolette, Executive Director and Delegate Producer, Montréal en Histoires in a release.

Book your flights now while prices are low

If you’re thinking of flying this summer book now before rising oil prices and growing travel demand push prices up even further.

Even before the war in Ukraine sent oil prices surging, the cost of oil was already heading upwards thanks not only to pent-up travel demand but also from a recovering global economy finding its way out of the pandemic.

“No question, when oil goes up, airline prices go up,” Richard Vanderlubbe, president of TripCentral.ca told Global News.

Before the war broke out in Ukraine, one analyst in the United States predicted that domestic airfares will rise six per cent a month until August, while international fares would also increase.

And it’s not just aviation analysts that are warning about price increases. The CEO of Australian airline Qantas, Alan Joyce, issued a similar warning.

“Unfortunately if they [oil prices] stay at these levels airfares are going to have to go up, and we’re going to have to pass them on,” Joyce told 9 News. He added that for every $4US the price of oil rises, it forces Qantas to raise airfares an extra one percent.

Canadian airlines have been non-committal about how fuel costs will affect their pricing. In a Canadian Press report, Air Canada said the cost of oil is always a factor in their ticket prices while WestJet would only say that it has not increased fares in response to current oil prices.

In the same report, Transat A.T. CFO Patrick Bui said the carrier might consider fuel hedging which means buying fuel for future use at locked-in prices in the hope that it will be lower than future prices. Several American airlines are already doing this to help mitigate rising expenses.

Complicating all of this is companies’ desire to take advantage of inflation to set higher prices to see how much they can get away with. In a CBC report, Jimmy Jean, chief economist for Desjardins Group, said inflation is familiar enough a concept to consumers right now that “it’s not a stretch to think that some businesses will raise prices or even exaggerate those price increases to kind of tease out to see [at what level] we’ll see a negative impact.”

Then, of course, there’s no telling where the COVID pandemic is going, as much as we all wish it would go away. If you do buy tickets in advance in order to lock in the price, be sure to read the fine print about the cancellation refund policy that goes along with it. Some Canadian travellers have been waiting since 2020 for their refunds.