A pilot taxis a Westjet Boeing 737-700 plane to a gate after arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday February 3, 2014. The WestJet Group is implementing a strict new policy to ensure passengers wear a mask on flights including the possibility of being denied travel for a year if they do not comply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A pilot taxis a Westjet Boeing 737-700 plane to a gate after arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday February 3, 2014. The WestJet Group is implementing a strict new policy to ensure passengers wear a mask on flights including the possibility of being denied travel for a year if they do not comply. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

WestJet says refusal to wear a mask could mean travel ban for a year

The policy will be applicable to all WestJet flights as well its budget subsidiary Swoop

WestJet Airlines Ltd. is implementing a strict new policy to ensure passengers wear masks on board planes, including the possibility of banning travel for a year if they refuse to comply.

The airline is also requiring all flyers to provide their contact information during check-in to help with contact tracing if an infected passenger is on same the flight.

The policy, applicable to all WestJet flights as well its budget subsidiary Swoop, builds on the mandatory on-board mask rule imposed by Transport Minister Marc Garneau in April to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The new measure aims to better enforce existing safety protocols, and comes as the airline and other Canadian carriers are pushing for eased travel restrictions.

The National Airlines Council, a trade group that represents Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Jazz Aviation, called last week for a more targeted approach to quarantines. It asked the federal government to end the blanket ban on foreign travellers — reciprocal bans are not in place for Canadian travellers to many countries — and the two-week self-isolation required of all Canadians returning from abroad, regardless of country of origin.

The council and Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu have also demanded a more consistent approach to domestic restrictions, as the four Atlantic provinces continue to enforce a travel “bubble” that requires a two-week quarantine for those arriving from outside the region.

READ MORE: Man arrested after making fake coronavirus claim on Westjet flight

The pandemic has been devastating for the airline industry, with little sign of a quick rebound in the near future.

Canadian airline revenues in 2020 will fall by $14.6 billion or 43 per cent from last year, according to estimates from the International Air Transport Association.

Passenger revenues at Air Canada dropped 95 per cent year over year in its second quarter, prompting 20,000 layoffs as the airline burned through $19 million per day. WestJet announced more than 3,300 layoffs in June.

“It’s a very dark picture,” said Jacques Roy, a professor of transport management at HEC Montreal business school.

“The most profitable period of an airline is the summer. We’re right into it now. They will be bleeding hard during that period. The other months that are not as profitable will probably be even worse than you’ve seen in the past.”

He said WestJet’s new mask policy marks an attempt to show they are serious about passenger health, who are almost unanimously in favour of such precautions on board.

Starting Sept. 1, refusal to wear a mask by customers over the age of two will be met with a three-step process, WestJet said. Flight attendants will first ask them to put on a mask and then give a warning that face coverings are required.

If passengers continue to refuse, cabin crew will notify them that they are being placed on a no-fly list for travel on any WestJet aircraft for 12 months.

“Masks are mandated by our regulator and the vast majority of our guests are happy to keep themselves and each other safe by complying. This enhanced policy provides clarity on how we will enforce the regulation for those who don’t,” chief executive Ed Sims said in a statement.

“Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines.”

More than 560 flights with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19 arrived at or departed from Canadian airports in the six months between February and July, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.

At WestJet, fewer than 15 flight attendants became infected in the first four months of the pandemic, said Chris Rauenbusch, a flight attendant and official with the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents the company’s cabin crew.

“CUPE is very pleased to see the further steps WestJet is taking to keep our members safe and empowered. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the airline in reassuring all guests that air travel is truly safe,” Rauenbusch said in a statement.

This report by The Canadian Press as first published Aug. 28, 2020.

READ MORE: Air Canada, WestJet to drop physical distancing policies as air travel ticks up

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross has been named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy for the BC Liberals. (Peter Versteege photo)
Skeena MLA Ellis Ross named critic for Environment and Climate Change Strategy

Previously, Ross was the critic for LNG, Resource Opportunities, and Responsible Development

Coast Mountains School District 82 is dealing with a shortage of bus drivers. (Natalia Balcerzak/Terrace Standard)
CMSD82 coping with bus driver shortage in Terrace area

LNG Project, COVID-19 contributing to driver shortage

The District of Stewart has adopted a strategic plan for 2020/21 with six focus areas. (District of Stewart/Facebook)
Stewart adopts 2020 strategic plan

Economy, community areas of focus

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest weekend of COVID-19 pandemic with 46 deaths; more than 2,300 cases

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides COVID-19 update

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

Paramedics register patients at a drive through, pop-up COVID-19 test centre outside the Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL’s Ottawa Senators, in Ottawa, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians aren’t currently worried that people in other countries might get a COVID-19 vaccine first. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Canadians not worried other countries will get COVID-19 vaccine first: poll

Forty-one per cent of respondents say they want the vaccine to be mandatory for all Canadians

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Kettle bells sit aligned in an indoor fitness studio. (PIxabay.com)
1 COVID-19 case at a B.C. fitness studio leads to 104 more infections, 6 school exposures

According to case data released by Fraser Health, one case of the novel coronavirus carries a big impact

Vehicles drive past a display thanking essential workers in Burnaby, B.C. on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
B.C. changing COVID-19 case reporting as virus spread continues

Manual counting takes more time, leads to errors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Christy Jordan-Fenton is the co-author of the book Fatty Legs, which has been mentioned amid the controversy of an Abbotsford school assignment on residential schools.
Co-author of residential schools book condemns controversial Abbotsford class assignment

Children’s book mentioned amid controversy at W. A. Fraser Middle School

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka takes over as energy and mines critic for the B.C. Liberal opposition. Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick (right) moves from health critic to assistant deputy speaker. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals pick critics to take on Horgan’s NDP majority

Interim leader Shirley Bond takes seniors, long-term care

Most Read