Issue/Source: Face Covering Requirement for Air Passengers
Date: January 26, 2021
- The face covering requirement represents an important part of the Government of Canada’s layered approach to keeping travellers safe by mitigating the spread of COVD-19 in the air sector.
- Individuals 6 years of age or older must wear a mask, unless a medical certificate has been provided. Children between the ages of two and five years of age must have a mask available and wear it where possible. These requirements apply at critical points in the airport environment, including during security screening, boarding, in-flight and disembarking.
- There is some flexibility built into Transport Canada’s Interim Order to allow air carriers to deal with exceptional circumstances (e.g., special needs or medical issue), as well as to allow for eating, drinking and taking oral medication.
- The vast majority of those traveling on flights to, from and within Canada are wearing face coverings to help prevent the spread of the COVID virus. Individuals who refuse to comply with an instruction given by a crew member with respect to wearing a face covering could be fined up to $5,000. Transport Canada will continue to investigate incidents reported to us and will take enforcement action where it is warranted.
- Under the Interim Order Respecting Certain Requirements for Civil Aviation Due to COVID-19, a private operator or air carrier must require all travellers to have a face covering with them prior to boarding. The private operator or air carrier must also require all its passengers to wear their face coverings at all time during the pre-board screening process, while boarding, during the flight and from the moment the doors of the aircraft are opened until passengers enter the air terminal building. Certain short-term exceptions apply, such as while a passenger is eating, drinking and taking oral medicine.
- The face covering requirements do not apply to:
- an infant (defined as a child under two years of age);
- a child two to five years of age who is unable to tolerate wearing a face mask (consistent with the recommendation from the Public Health Agency of Canada);
- a person who provides a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face mask for a medical reason;
- a person who is unconscious; or
- a person who is unable to remove their face mask without assistance.
- The flight crew can exercise some discretion when dealing with special circumstances, and the pilot has the authority to take appropriate action he or she deems necessary to protect the safety of the aircraft, crew, or passengers. Transport Canada’s guidance document to air carriers advises them to exercise discretion to allow for eating, drinking, taking oral medications and changing of the mask or face covering, for individuals with special circumstances as warranted (e.g., fussy older child, special needs, etc.) or in cases where the wearing of a mask could endanger the safety of the person.
- Air carriers must adhere to the measures as laid out in the Interim Order but may have additional measures that align to internal health policies put into effect.
- If, during a flight to, from or within Canada, a person refuses to comply with an instruction given by a crew member with respect to wearing a face mask, the private operator or air carrier must inform Transport Canada, which will investigate and determine appropriate action.
- Based on Transport Canada’s graduated approach to enforcement action, when warranted by the results of an investigation where mitigating factors are taken into consideration, a first offense may result in a letter of warning. The letter serves as a reminder of the consequences the offender may face should the infraction be committed again in the future. Should a second or subsequent violation occur for the same offence/violation, Transport Canada’s process would trigger an enhanced level of enforcement action, which could result in a penalty of up to $5,000.
- First time violators are not, however, always given a letter of warning. When an investigation finds evidence of aggravating factors, such as blatant and repeated refusals to comply, combined with other inappropriate behaviors such as disrespectful or abusive language on the part of the alleged offender, verbal or physical threats towards employees, crew members or fellow travellers, the Minister of Transport can impose monetary penalties even if on a first offence. For some of the more egregious situations when a passenger is deemed to be “unruly”, law enforcement may be required to intervene. In these circumstances, a monetary penalty can be assessed in addition to possible criminal charges.