Updated: Sep 1, 2020
As a travel agent, I have a responsibility to know first hand about the product I am presenting to my client. This thorough service does not stop during a pandemic, so I packed my bags and headed to British Columbia for the weekend.
Upon arrival at the airport with my important mask on, I entered the departures entrance. From here I went through to the baggage drop to have a new boarding pass printed off. I was the only one and there were no lines which was great! I typically use the phone app from whatever provider I have booked with, however was advised that its much easier and more hygienic at the moment to have a printed pass. From here I was advised to proceed towards the one security point as they have been combined at the moment. I was positive I would be met with a plethora of other travelers however was again pleasantly surprised by no line in progress. I was asked to stand in front of a thermal scanner for a temperature check and guided towards the normal security check in this process. I placed my bags on the conveyor, placed my previously packed sealed liquids separately in the container and continued through the x-ray. I had an additional hand swipe screens for both departure and return flights as well. Once I gathered my belongings I proceeded towards my departure gate and waited for what seemed forever.
Air providers advise to be at your airport 90 minutes in advance of a domestic flight (3 hours prior to international travel). I felt that with the additional screening process in place I should be there two hours in advance. I am sure that had I been there 90 minutes it would have been plenty of time.
Once it was time to board we did so as per the norm, by seat section. I had my boarding pass and ID in hand, had a quick temperature check and was permitted to enter the aircraft. Once inside, I was handed a cleansing wipe and instructed to wipe down my seats/area when I located it. I appreciate that the onus is put on the passenger for their own cleanliness. Our new safety presentation included information on COVID restrictions and guidelines, and how you should keep the masks securely fastened at all times unless you were actively eating or drinking, and of course should the oxygen mask come down to please remove the mask to do so. I looked at the person next to me and we both sort of shook our heads since common sense apparently is not that common these days to warrant an instruction such as this! We were instructed that those who would refuse to wear a mask at any point would prevent take off until they agree, and should problems arise the aircraft would either turn back or land elsewhere to have them removed. In addition the suspect passenger would be put on a do not fly list for at least one year period of time. Everyone on board was very happy to be traveling and compliant with the new procedure. The stewardess' were super friendly and personable, and their display was professional yet fun (ahh gotta love Westjet!). They really made you feel as though no one likes this new norm, however if it is what we need to do to protect ourselves and others while traveling, then we will do it!
Refreshments served consisted of a small bottle of water and a sealed cookie/cracker. It was an hour flight so not entirely necessary but it was nice nonetheless.
Upon arriving at my destination, we were advised all passengers would be leaving exiting the aircraft by family, from the front to the back, and you were not allowed to stand up or retrieve your luggage from the overhead compartment until the family in front of you was well on their way towards the exit of the aircraft. This was a lengthy process and seem to take a lot longer than normal, however I do appreciate WestJet's commitment to keeping their passengers and staff safe.
Once having exited the aircraft I made my way towards the airport exit while others continued on towards their baggage claims. Absolutely everyone inside the airport is wearing a mask, and it wasn't until I exited the airport I was able to take mine off. That felt good!!!
This was my experience during a domestic flight from Calgary to Abbotsford, BC however I have been advised this is much of what we can expect from air travel for the interim. Some Countries have additional screening in place (as an example a Doctors Certificate is required by some countries to have been signed no longer than 3 days prior to arriving at your destination. If you are traveling to Africa as an example, you can see where this timing becomes almost impossible in coordinating a doctors visit with results coming back 3 days prior to your arriving at a destination. I have been told from an air provider a client of theirs was turned back from France to Montreal because her doctors certificate expired 3 hours prior to landing, while she was on the aircraft. This becomes a terrible situation for obvious reasons.
As a side note, Westjet has an incredible offer for those of you who are wanting to book travel now for the winter, however are nervous about doing so. As someone that books a lot of international travel for my clients, I am seeing the numbers slowly increase to sunny south destinations, and businesses such as Westjet are making the current prices pretty hard to resist! Please call or email myself and I can go over your options, and rest assured that people are traveling right now, they are simply being extra cautious and that's okay. Everyone has a different level of comfort with respect to travel during a pandemic, different circumstances that they need to consider such as personal health situation, insurance worries, and the mandatory 14 day quarantine upon return to Canada. Travel at the moment may not be right for everyone, however if it is right for you and we are safe and thorough, you are able to travel to many places.
If you have any questions about air travel domestically or otherwise at this time, Wood Travel is here to work with you!! Below, you will find the Westjet Zero Tolerance Mask Policy, designed to keep us all safe during travel! I would like to thanks Westjet very much for the experience and information!
Zero Tolerance Mask Policy
Effective, September 1, 2020, the WestJet Group will implement a zero-tolerance policy in support of the requirement for all guests, over the age of two, to wear masks and face coverings. Non-compliant guests will face penalties including denied boarding, return of the aircraft to the gate to offload the passenger and the suspension of travel on any WestJet Group aircraft for up to one year.
“Canadian travelers and all of our WestJet Group employees are counting on us to keep them safe and it is our utmost priority to do so,” said Ed Sims, The WestJet Group President and CEO. “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. Travelers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines.”
Non-compliance on board the aircraft will be managed through a three-step process: 1. Passengers will first be asked to put the mask on in a discussion with cabin crew. 2. Passengers will be given a warning that masks are required, and compliance is necessary. 3. Passengers will receive notice that non-compliance will result in follow up notification that they will be placed on a no-fly list for 12-months.
Since April 20, 2020, it has been mandatory for travelers to wear protective face coverings throughout their travel journey, including at the airport and while in flight and at the airport. As outlined by Transport Canada, travelers requiring an exemption to the regulation for health reasons must produce a certified medical note or will be subject to the measures as outlined. Complete guidelines on non-medical masks are available here.
Prior to flying, it is important travelers understand the current regulations and modifications to services in response to COVID-19. Travelers that wish to eat or drink while on board remain able to do so if they replace their mask once finished.
Contact Tracing Enhancements
Effective, September 1, 2020, the input of contact information for those travelling on WestJet, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link and Swoop will become mandatory at the 24-hour check-in process online and at kiosks. Mandatory information at WestJet check-in kiosks will be phased into the policy change by the end of September.
Once implemented, guests will no longer be able to bypass the information screen and will be required to input up-to-date information prior to the issuance of a boarding pass. It is the responsibility of the traveler to provide accurate information.
“We continue to work collaboratively with our health partners to adapt our procedures,” added Sims. “A coordinated approach is essential, and we are advocating for contact tracing enhancements along with the introduction of testing.”
Since March, the WestJet Group has been the only Canadian airline to provide full transparency in advising the public of flights affected by COVID-19. Between March 23 and August 25, WestJet has flown more than 725,000 guests on 19,370 flights. Of those, the airline has been notified of just over 230 flights where infected individuals have flown, this accounts for less than one per cent of flights. Swoop has operated 1,070 flights with 103,000 travelers and has been notified of eight flights where infected individuals have flown, accounting for less than one per cent of flights. There have been no reported cases of transmission on board any WestJet Group aircraft.
WestJet (including WestJet Encore and WestJet Link) and Swoop remain the only operators in Canada taking the extra steps to post affected flights to external channels in effort to inform the public at large and to aid the media in assisting public health officials in disseminating information as quickly and as broadly as possible.
WestJet has built a framework to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline invested quickly in hygiene and safety measures to mitigate the risk throughout the entire travel journey, investing millions of dollars’ worth of equipment, cleaning and additional measures to protect those who had to fly. The airline continues to invest, test and trial multiple additional safety measures to ensure safety above all