The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is the lead Federal agency responsible for coordinating efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidance below provides airline and airport operators and crew members with the current best practices and resources to operate during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also included is guidance on the management of ill passengers and Mental Health.
Operators should develop guidance for COVID-19 prevention consistent with PHAC recommendations, including hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, optimized physical distancing, ventilation systems, and mask wearing.
Operators should ensure that their Hazard Prevention Program (required under the Canada Labour Code Part II) has been updated with the participation of the Policy or Workplace Health and Safety Committee or Representative. Updates should include the known hazards related to COVID-19 and that control measures are included to protect their employees from this virus, include mental health considerations. Crew and employees must be trained in these measures. The Labour Program has posted guidance for stakeholders.
Operators should refer to PHAC's Risk-Informed Decision-Making Guidelines for Workplaces and Businesses during the COVID-19 Pandemic when developing protective measures to manage COVID-19 risks associated with the work or workplace. In these guidelines, there is a recognition that in some settings physical distancing of 2 metres is not possible. When 2 metre physical distancing is not possible, (e.g., in an aircraft, Customs Halls, areas of airports), operators should use a “layered” approach with multiple protective measures in accordance with published guidance. Protective measures may include: hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, ventilation systems, mask wearing, and optimized physical distancing (where 2m is not possible). Vaccination Status may also be considered in the layered approach to risk mitigation. Operators should communicate with employees and passengers how “layered” protective measures mitigate the risk associated with reduced physical distancing in these circumstances. Operators should provide employees with masks or permit employees to wear their own when interacting with other employees or passengers whenever physical distancing of 2 metres cannot be maintained while on duty, as a public health measure. Refer to PHAC guidance mask use in community settings.
Passengers are expected to bring their own masks for use throughout their journey, including in all airport areas and aboard aircraft. Operators should instruct employees to request that passengers wear their masks when interacting with employees or other passengers. Exceptions include children under 2 years of age, persons with trouble breathing, and persons unable to remove a mask without assistance. Operators should refer to the latest Interim Order for current masking requirements and exceptions. Based on available supplies, operators could make masks available to passengers who do not have their own.
Operators should develop guidance for COVID-19 passenger screening that complies with the Interim Orders for persons boarding flights to Canada and within Canada.
Operators should ensure that crews, airport employees, airports, and aircraft are well-provisioned with supplies such as: hand sanitizer, hard-surface disinfectants, disposable gloves, facial tissues, garbage bags, and masks for use and distribution, as necessary, by crew members/employees.
Operators should ensure that lavatories are well-provisioned with potable water (where applicable), soap, and paper towels to enable frequent handwashing by passengers, crew members, and airport employees.
Operators should develop guidance for spacing passengers when possible to optimize physial distancing.
Airline Operators without the expertise, trained crews, and equipment necessary for Medical Evacuation (MEDEVAC) should not accept requests for MEDEVAC of ill patients known or suspected to have COVID-19.
Airline Operators should clearly assign tasks and cabin areas of responsibility for crew members in direct contact with passengers. This will allow easier contact tracing if a crew member or passenger becomes ill.
Operators should limit non-essential tasks that would require crew members or airport employees to be in direct contact with passengers
Operators should provide detailed instructions on proper cleaning of high-touch surfaces aboard aircraft and in airports as well as the disposal of potentially contaminated items.
Airline Operators should arrange local transport for crew members to hotels that avoids large groups, crowded areas, and public transit.
Airline Operators should facilitate crew member feeding that avoids crowded restaurants, such as by using room service.
Operators should develop clear procedures for crew members and airport employees who feel unwell, whether prior to or during a duty period.
Guidance for Crew Members
All crew members should continue to self-monitor and not report for duty if unwell in any way.
Crew members should remain up to date on symptoms associated with COVID-19 (commonly fever, new or worsening cough, new loss of smell or taste, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing).
Crew members should follow operator guidance for COVID-19 prevention, including proper hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, optimized physical distancing, and mask wearing.
Crew members should limit contact with local workers, crowded areas, and public transit.
Crew members should limit access to the aircraft by local ground workers to essential tasks only.
Crew members who become ill with symptoms associated with COVID-19 or who test positive for COVID-19 should follow the directions of the public health authority. Crew members should immediately advise the operator so that appropriate steps to prevent further spread can be taken.
During a flight, crew members should be prepared to manage ill passengers or crew members.
In order to prevent the spread of droplets, the ill person should be given a mask.
If a mask is not available or not tolerated, the ill person should be instructed to cough/sneeze into their elbow or a facial tissue.
The ill person should remain seated as much as possible to prevent droplet spread above seat height.
Crew members should determine whether the ill person should be moved:
For short or full flights or when there are travel companions (e.g. family members) seated with the ill person, it may be best to leave the ill person seated where they are to minimize movement through the aircraft
For long flights with extra seating capacity, it may be worthwhile to move the ill person to the rear row window seat, for air circulation purposes. Except for travelling companions, consider moving passengers out of the two rows ahead of the ill person.
Ideally, one designated crew member should provide in-flight service to the ill person and their travelling companions.
If the ill person uses a lavatory, the designated crew member should immediately disinfect high touch hard surfaces in the used lavatory.
The designated crew member should wash hands or use hand sanitizer after each interaction with the ill person.
Upon landing, the ill person should be transferred to emergency health services in accordance with direction from public health authorities after the other passengers have disembarked.
Out of an abundance of caution, the designated crew member should be provided with an opportunity to change clothing before returning to duty. Used clothing should be washed in a regular hot water laundry cycle and may be laundered with other clothing.
Operators should acknowledge to their personnel that the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has the potential to affect their Mental Health. Operators should raise Mental Health awareness to all of their personnel, not just crew members, as all staff are vital to the safe functioning of the aviation industry.
Operators should make active and regular efforts to check on the mental well-being of their personnel.
Operators should make all personnel aware of Mental Health services that are available to them, including: Employee Assistance Programs, Peer Support Programs, licensed Healthcare Providers, and the Crisis Services Canada. The Canada Suicide Prevention Service is available at 1-833-456-4566 (24/7) or text 45645 (4 PM - 12 AM ET). Additional links and resources are available on the Mental Health Commission of Canada COVID-19 Resource webpage and the Government of Canada Suicide Prevention webpage.
All aviation industry personnel, including crew members, should self-monitor and monitor their colleagues for any signs of distress and take early and appropriate action to intervene. Warning signs of suicide are listed on the Government of Canada Suicide Prevention webpage.
All aviation personnel have a responsibility to themselves, their families, co-workers, and passengers to be mentally and physically fit for duty at all times. Stressful reactions to abnormal circumstances, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are normal and to be expected. Seeking help early may avoid or limit the need to be away from duty.
For flight crew and controllers who might require medical treatment and time away from duty, Transport Canada is a world leader in returning personnel to duty after successful recovery from Mental Health issues. Support and attention will be provided to help those effectively return to service after successful treatment initiatives.
Limit contact with local workers, crowded areas, and public transit.
Follow operator guidance on hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette, optimized physical distancing, and mask wearing.
Self-monitor and do not report for duty if unwell in any way.
This situation may be stressful and affect mental health. Check with your Operator to see what resources are available. The Mental Health Commission of Canada has posted COVID-19 Resource that may also be helpful.