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

Dreamfish are hung on the fence at Annunication School in Prince Rupert on April 17 as part of the Stream of Dream eco-education program teaching about local watersheds and salmon habitats. (Photo: K-J Millar/The Northern View)
Stream of Dreams fish swim the fence at Prince Rupert School

Students at Annunciation school learned about watershed protection and salmon habitat

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

BC CDC mapping for the week ending April 4, shows a sharp decrease in COVID-19 cases to 27 in Prince Rupert down 45 from the week prior. (Image: BCCDC)
Sharp decline in Prince Rupert COVID-19 cases

Prince Rupert lab-confirmed cases are down 62.5 per cent in one week

Blair Mirau, Gitmaxmak’ay Nisga’a Society CEO, is seen in a hydroponic greenhouse the society purchased in 2020 to promote food stability and local supply. (Photo: supplied)
Three P.R. organizations partner to develop food distribution network

$167,000 grant awarded to GSN, PRDCC and Ecotrust Canada to strengthen food supply chains

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Canadian driver Paul Tracy pulls out of the pits during the morning session at the Molson Indy in Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, July 26, 2003 (CP/Richard Lam)
Vancouver is considering hosting a Formula E race using electric cars

The race would be part of a three-day event focused on climate and sustainability

Chart from the April 20 B.C. budget shows sharp dip in real estate sales early in the COVID-19 pandemic and the even steeper climb since late 2020. (B.C. government)
Hot B.C. housing market drives property transfer tax gains

B.C. budget boosts tobacco, sweet drinks, carbon taxes

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. to help Canada with more COVID-19 vaccine supply, Biden says

The U.S. has already provided Canada with about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

B.C.’s 2021 budget is trending in the right direction to support farmers, says the BC Fruit Growers’ Association. (Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
BC Fruit Growers’ Association gives thumbs up to provincial budget

BCFGA general manager said budgetary investments put farming industry on a good trajectory for recovery

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson leaves the assembly with Premier John Horgan after the budget speech Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Paid sick leave for ‘hard-hit’ workers left out of provincial budget: BCGEU

‘For recovery to be equitable it requires supports for workers, not just business,’ says union president Laird Cronk

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

Former University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Rowing Canada sanctions former head coach of B.C. varsity women’s team

Suspension of Barney Williams would be reversed if he complies with certain terms

Most Read