COVID-19: Guidance Material for Air Operators Managing Air Travellers for Flights Departing from an Aerodrome in Canada

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Purpose

The purpose of this document is to provide guidance for air operators regarding the implementation of requirements included in the Interim Order Respecting Certain Requirements for Civil Aviation Due to COVID-19, No. 41 (the Interim Order).

Caveat: The content of this guidance document does not supersede any requirement or obligation outlined in Transport Canada’s Interim Order or the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Orders in Council. It is meant to provide recommendations and guidance on how to understand and carry out the requirements.

Overview

This guidance material, dated October 6, 2021, replaces the September 23, 2021 version. This iteration includes no content changes aside from making the link to Interim Order No. 41.

Recommended Sequencing for Air Operators

1. Notification and Confirmation Process

Transport Canada recommends this step be conducted during the online or in-person check-in process (See Annex A1 and Annex A2 for pre-board messages). To limit the number of travellers who are denied boarding, Transport Canada is recommending that air operators publish notifications on their websites to remind and alert those considering flying what they can expect on their journey as per the requirements below. Notifications on websites should also advise travellers that they will require a medical certificate if they are exhibiting COVID-19 like symptoms or are unable to wear a face mask due to a medical condition. It should also be noted that many requirements remain in place at this time, even for travellers who are fully vaccinated.

Air Operators must notify every traveller that:

  • They may not be permitted to board if:
    • they are exhibiting: (1) a fever and cough; or (2) a fever and difficulty breathing; and do not have a medical certificate certifying these symptoms are not related to COVID-19;
    • they have, or have any reason to suspect they have, COVID-19;
    • they have not been permitted to board an aircraft in the previous 14 days for medical reasons related to COVID-19; or
    • they are subject to a mandatory quarantine order as a result of having recently travelled or because of a local or provincial health order that prohibits them from travelling.

    Note: Travellers must be notified that if they knowingly provide any false or misleading information about their health, they may be subject to a monetary penalty of up to $5,000.

  • They may be subject to a measure taken by the federal, provincial or territorial government at the destination airport for that flight in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A summary of the provincial/territorial restrictions can be found in Annex B.

    Note: In situations where a traveller is under a mandatory quarantine order, they may still be permitted to travel based on the specific provisions of the order, providing they are symptom-free and pass the health check. For further information on the federally mandated quarantine provisions, please refer to the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations) Emergency Order. For more information on the specific provincial and territorial measures in place, please refer to Annex B (Provincial/Territorial Restrictions).

  • They must be in possession of a face mask, even if fully vaccinated (see Annex C for a description of an acceptable face mask) prior to boarding and must wear the face mask throughout their entire travel journey (unless they provide a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face mask for medical reasons). This includes wearing the face mask at airport screening checkpoints, during the boarding process, during the flight, and upon landing and disembarking at a Canadian airport (even if they are from the same household). They must also comply with any instructions given by a gate agent, aerodrome security personnel or crew member with respect to wearing the face mask.

    Note: Some exceptions apply when the person could be endangered by wearing a face mask, when they are briefly eating, drinking or taking oral medications, when the gate agent or crew member authorizes the removal of a face mask to address unforeseen circumstances or special needs or when a gate agent, aerodrome security personnel or a crew member authorizes the removal of the face mask for identity verification.

Travellers must confirm to the Air operator that:

  • They: (1) do not have or suspect they have COVID-19; (2) have not been denied boarding in the previous 14 days by an air operator due to a medical reason related to COVID-19; and (3) are not subject to a mandatory quarantine order as a result of recent travel or from a local or provincial health order that does not permit them to travel.

    Note: a competent adult may provide this confirmation on behalf of another adult who may require assistance (in a situation where it is required).

    Note: In situations where an asymptomatic traveller is subject to a mandatory quarantine order, the air operator should check their particular circumstances to confirm whether air travel is permitted (e.g. entry into Canada by air - a valid negative molecular test would allow the journey to continue). However, the onus is on the traveller to demonstrate that they can travel under these circumstances. In addition, note that some jurisdictions may also allow individuals to depart as long as they are asymptomatic. For further information on the federally mandated quarantine provisions, please refer to the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations) Emergency Order. For more information on the specific provincial and territorial measures in place, please refer to Annex B (Provincial/Territorial Restrictions).

  • They are in possession of a face mask (or have a medical certificate stating a reason why they cannot wear a mask).

    Note: fully vaccinated travellers must still be in possession of a face mask and wear the mask throughout their entire travel journey as well.

  • They understand that they may be subject to a provincial, territorial, or federal government measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when travelling within Canada.

Onward Travel Domestically

Given the discontinuation of the Government Authorized Accommodations (GAA) for inbound international travellers, all travellers are able to immediately travel onwards to their final destination. This means that they can take domestic flights or use other public transportation; however, all other public health measures must be followed (such as wearing a mask).

Partially vaccinated or unvaccinated travellers who have cleared CBSA processing will be asked to take their day 1 test on site at the airport or will be given an at-home test kit. If testing is done on-site at the airport, once completed, they will be able to travel onward domestically. If a take home kit is provided, the traveller can travel onward domestically, but the instructions in their take home kit must be followed upon arrival at their destination.

Fully vaccinated travellers will be subject to mandatory randomized testing, meaning only if they are randomly selected will they be required to do a day 1 arrival test. If randomly selected, travellers will be asked to take their arrival test on site at the airport or will be given an at-home test kit. If testing is done on-site at the airport, once completed, travellers will be able to travel onward domestically. If a take home kit is provided, the traveller can travel onward domestically, but the instructions in their take home kit must be followed upon arrival at their destination.

To be considered fully vaccinated, travellers must:

  • have received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine or a combination of accepted vaccines accepted by the Government of Canada
  • have received their last dose at least 14 days prior to the day they enter Canada
    • Example: if their last dose was anytime on Thursday July 1, then Thursday July 15 would be the first day that they meet the 14 day condition
    • If the traveller received their vaccines outside of Canada, it is still accepted, but they must be uploaded digitally in ArriveCAN, in English or French, or with a certified translation into English or French. Travellers should also have a paper copy of their proof of vaccination when travelling.

For more information please visit: https://travel.gc.ca/travel-covid/travel-restrictions/covid-vaccinated-travellers-entering-canada#determine-fully

2. Boarding Process

General Process:

During the identity verification process, the air operator performs a visual inspection to ensure that all travellers (even those fully vaccinated) have an appropriate face mask, and reminders are given to ensure the traveller’s mouth, nose and chin are covered (if necessary). After the traveller hands over their identity documents and tickets to the air operator representative, the traveller should be asked to step back an appropriate distance and pull down their face mask to briefly uncover their face (using the ties/elastics) in order to complete the identity verification. After the identity verification is complete, the traveller can then re-cover their mouth and nose before collecting their documents from the air operator representative. Air operators should also consider pre-boarding travellers who are unable to wear a face mask due to medical reasons and to make special seating arrangements (e.g., infants and younger children seated next to the window, away from the aisle).

Requirements for Air operators:

  • Ensure gate agents and crew members are wearing a face mask (even if fully vaccinated), unless the safety of the gate agent or crew member could be endangered by wearing one, when it could interfere with the operational requirements or the safety of the flight or when they are eating, drinking or taking oral medications.
  • Observe whether travellers boarding the flight exhibit COVID-19 symptoms and deny boarding to those who exhibit a fever and a cough or a fever and difficulty breathing unless they have a medical certificate identifying the symptoms are unrelated to COVID-19.
  • Verify that every traveller boarding the flight is wearing a face mask, even if fully vaccinated, and deny boarding to those who don’t. Exceptions to wearing a face mask include: an infant less than 2 years old (note that it is recommended for children ages 2 to 5 years old but not mandatory), a person who provides a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face mask for medical reasons (see Conditions Preventing the Wearing of Face Masks or Face Coverings for an example medical certificate), a person who is unconscious, or a person who is unable to remove their face mask without assistance. Some exceptions also apply when the person could be endangered by wearing a face mask, when they are eating, drinking or taking oral medications, when the gate agent or crew member authorizes the removal of a face mask to address unforeseen circumstances or special needs or when a gate agent, aerodrome security personnel or a crew member authorizes the removal of a face mask for identity verification.

3. Denial of boarding

In the event that the air operator observes that the air traveller has COVID-19 symptoms, the air operator will be required to deny boarding for travel for a period of 14 days or until a medical certificate is presented that confirms that the symptoms that the person is exhibiting are not related to the COVID-19 virus.

  • Unless a medical certificate is provided, the air operator is also required to deny boarding if the air traveller:
    • refuses to answer questions on the health check;
    • does not have a face mask in their possession (see Annex C for guidance on face mask); or
    • refuses to comply with an instruction given by a crew member or gate agent with respect to wearing a face mask.

    Note: travellers who are under a quarantine order are not to be denied boarding in the case where the order has provisions that allow them to travel, as long as they meet all other requirements (e.g., are symptom-free and pass the health check). For further information on the federally mandated quarantine provisions, please refer to the Minimizing the Risk of Exposure to COVID-19 in Canada Order (Quarantine, Isolation and Other Obligations) Emergency Order. For more information on the specific provincial and territorial measures in place, please refer to Annex B (Provincial/Territorial Restrictions).

If a denial of boarding situation occurs, the air operator should follow these steps:

  • Provide explanation for future travel – Air operators will explain to air travellers who are denied boarding, based on the health check or observation of symptoms, that they will need to wait 14 days before they are able to fly or that they will need to provide a medical certificate indicating the symptoms that they are exhibiting are not related to the COVID-19 virus.
  • Advise air travellers to follow local health authority guidance related to COVID-19 – Air operators should advise air travellers who have been denied boarding, due to exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms, to follow the guidance/direction from their provincial/territorial health authorities for dealing with COVID-19.

4. In-flight – To be conducted as appropriate and in accordance with the Interim Order:

  • Air Operators must require crew members and travellers to wear a face mask during the flight, even if they are fully vaccinated. Exceptions include: when a person is on the flight deck (e.g. pilots, flight engineers or flight attendants, Transport Canada inspectors, a person providing service who has expertise related to the aircraft), when the safety of the crew member or traveller could be endangered by wearing a face mask, when it could interfere with operational requirements or the safety of the flight, or when they are eating, drinking or taking oral medications.

    Note about eating and drinking: Travellers should make every effort to finish their drink or eat their food within a period of no longer than 15 minutes. Air operators are encouraged to use this guideline, which is defined by the Public Health Agency of Canada as the threshold for “prolonged exposure” when enforcing this provision; however, it is acknowledged that there will be exceptional circumstances that will require some flexibility. It is also suggested that prior to serving any food or drinks in–flight that travellers be reminded that they are only allowed to remove their face mask for a brief period (which could mean 15 minutes or less) to finish drinking or eating and that they must keep their face mask on while waiting for any food or drink. Should a crew member feel the “brief” timeframe has been exceeded, they will ask them traveller to put their face mask back on. Failure to comply could result in a fine for the traveller.

    Note: Exceptions to this include: an infant less than 2 years old, a person who provides a medical certificate certifying that they are unable to wear a face mask for medical reasons, a person who is unconscious, and a person who is unable to remove their face mask without assistance.

  • If, during a flight, a traveller refuses to comply with an instruction given by a crew member with respect to wearing a face mask, the air operator must keep a record of the following information for a period of 12 months and inform the Minister as soon as feasible (generally expected within 24-28 hours after the incident or sooner):
    • the date and flight number;
    • the traveller’s name and contact information, including the person’s date of birth, home address, telephone number and email address;
    • the traveller’s seat number on the flight; and
    • the circumstances related to this refusal to comply.

    Note: These records must be made available to the Minister upon request, not just immediately following the incident.

    Ensuring this information related to the incident is as complete and accurate as possible will be essential in facilitating Transport Canada’s ability to conduct a suitable investigation. Having the support and assistance of air operators in this process will be key to ensuring that there is sufficient evidence to take enforcement action, if required.

    Note: Air operators are not expected to update their systems if the information that is provided does not match; however, every effort to ensure all relevant information is relayed to Transport Canada in a timely manner is appreciated.

5. Deplaning process (Domestic flights only) – to be conducted upon landing:

  • Air operators are to advise travellers that they are required to wear a face mask during the deplaning process. While there is no requirement from Transport Canada for travellers to wear a face mask while deplaning at a location outside of Canada, please note that the department strongly recommends this practice, in accordance with ICAO CART recommendations (https://www.icao.int/covid/cart/Pages/default.aspx).

Denied boarding due to COVID-19 symptoms?

  • Leave the airport and go immediately to a place where you can self-isolate for 10 days, and use private transportation, where possible, such as a personal vehicle to get there.
  • Practice physical distancing at all times
  • Practice frequent hygiene, including proper hand washing and coughing and sneezing into your elbow or a tissue
  • Wear a face mask over your mouth, nose and chin at all times to protect others
  • Follow all local health authority guidance related to COVID-19
  • Get more information at: www.canada.ca/coronavirus

Available COVID-19 Resources:

Government of Canada: 1-833-784-4397 or visit www.canada.ca/coronavirus

Provincial and territorial:

Annex A1: Pre-Board notification to Domestic Travellers

The pre-board notification process can be done at automated check-in kiosks, by agents at the check-in counter, or any other means, at the discretion of the air operator; however, it is recommended that the traveller be made aware of the requirement to have a face mask in their possession prior to arriving at the airport.

Pre-board Notification to Domestic Travellers

The Government of Canada, along with provincial and territorial authorities, has put measures in place in order to manage the spread of COVID-19. Please note that all the following measures apply to travellers, even if they are fully vaccinated.

Prior to boarding this flight, you will be required to undergo a health check. Providing false or misleading answers could result in a maximum fine of $5,000. The Government of Canada is also requiring that all travellers have a removable face mask to cover their mouth, nose and chin to prevent the inadvertent spread of COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. Travellers must wear their face mask at all times during the screening process and the boarding process, as well as during the flight, upon landing, when exiting the aircraft, and as directed to do so by a member of the aerodrome security personnel, a gate agent or crew member. Failure to comply with wearing a face mask may result in the traveller receiving a fine and being denied boarding.

As a reminder, no person should board a flight when they are feeling ill as this could potentially put others at risk. Should symptoms such as a fever, cough or difficulty breathing develop while in flight, please notify a crew member immediately.

When arriving at your destination, you may be subject to further measures taken by the provincial or territorial government in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Please remember it is your responsibility to be familiar with potential restrictions regarding your final destination point.

Stay safe and be informed about COVID-19 measures from Canadian national, provincial and territorial health authorities that apply in the region where you are heading.

Annex A2: Pre-board notification to travellers departing Canada

The pre-board notification process can be done at automated check-in kiosks, by agents at the check-in counter, or any other means, at the discretion of the air operator; however, it is recommended that the traveller be made aware of the requirement to have a face mask in their possession prior to arriving at the airport.

Pre-board notification to travellers departing Canada

The Government of Canada has put measures in place in order to manage the spread of COVID-19. Please note that all the following measures apply to all travellers, even if fully vaccinated.

Prior to boarding this flight, you will be required to undergo a health check. Providing false or misleading answers could result in a maximum fine of $5,000. The Government of Canada is also requiring that all travellers have a removable face mask to cover their mouth, nose and chin to prevent the inadvertent spread of COVID-19, even if you are fully vaccinated. Travellers must wear their face mask at all times during the screening process and the boarding process, as well as during the flight, upon landing, and when exiting the aircraft, as directed to do so by a member of the aerodrome security personnel, a gate agent or crew member. Failure to comply with wearing a face mask may result in the traveller receiving a fine and being denied boarding.

As a reminder, no person should board a flight when they are feeling ill as this could potentially put others at risk. Should symptoms such as a fever, cough or difficulty breathing develop while in flight, please notify a crew member immediately.

Stay safe and be informed about COVID-19 measures from Canadian national, provincial and territorial health authorities that apply in the region where you are heading.

Annex A3: In-flight announcement for a Canadian Domestic Flight

In light of the global pandemic related to COVID-19, the Government of Canada, in cooperation with provincial/territorial public health authorities, has put in place important measures to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in Canada. Please note that these measures apply to travellers even if they are fully vaccinated.

Travellers are reminded that they must use their face mask during their journey, regardless of their vaccination status. Upon landing, travellers will be required to wear their face mask when gathering their belongings and leaving the aircraft, and until they are outside the air terminal building.

Along with wearing a face mask and physical distancing, the Government of Canada strongly advises all travellers in Canada to use the free COVID Alert app to:

  • Be notified when they may have been exposed to COVID-19;
  • Get advice on what to do next; and
  • Tell nearby app users if you test positive for COVID-19, without sharing personal information.

Stay safe and be informed about COVID-19 measures from Canadian national, provincial and territorial health authorities that apply in the region where you are heading.

Annex B: Provincial/Territorial Restrictions

Please note that provincial and territorial information changes on a frequent basis. It is recommended that the following provincial/territorial government websites be consulted to obtain the latest travel information:

Province/Territory

Provincial / Territorial Web link

Alberta

Travellers should consult Alberta COVID-19

British Columbia

Travellers should consult British Columbia COVID-19

Manitoba

Travellers should consult Manitoba COVID-19

New Brunswick

Travellers should consult New Brunswick COVID-19

Newfoundland and Labrador

Travellers should consult Newfoundland and Labrador COVID-19

Northwest Territories

Travellers should consult Northwest Territories COVID-19

Nova Scotia

Travellers should consult Nova Scotia COVID-19

Nunavut

Travellers should consult Nunavut COVID-19

Ontario

Travellers should consult Ontario COVID-19

Prince Edward Island

Travellers should consult Prince Edward Island COVID-19

Quebec

Travellers should consult Quebec COVID-19

Saskatchewan

Travellers should consult Saskatchewan COVID-19

Yukon

Travellers should consult Yukon COVID-19

Annex C: Face Masks

The Government of Canada requires that all travellers six years and older wear a face mask large enough to cover their mouth, nose and chin during their entire travel journey. This applies to travellers who are fully vaccinated as well. For more information on face masks, please consult: Non-Medical Face Masks: About.

Travellers must confirm that they have in their possession the mandatory face mask as part of the registration or check-in process, otherwise they will be denied boarding.

Refusal to comply with the wearing of a face mask could result in a fine of $5,000 for the traveller.

Safe Use of Removable Face Masks

Face masks should: Face masks should not:
  • Be made of multiple layersFootnote 1 of tightly woven fabric such as cotton or linen
  • Be large enough to completely and comfortably cover the mouth, nose and chin without gaps
  • Fit securely to the head with ties or ear loops (masks covering a person’s beard or secured around a headwear (e.g. turban) are also considered acceptable)Footnote 2
  • Be made of breathable materials
  • Be comfortable and not require frequent adjustments
  • Be changed as soon as possible if damp or dirty
  • Be stored in a clean paper or cloth bag until you put it on again
  • Be placed on children less than 2 years old
  • Be placed on anyone who’s unable to remove it without assistance
  • Be placed on anyone with a medical certificate indicating they should not wear a mask
  • Be made of materials that easily fall apart, like tissues
  • Be shared with others
  • Impair vision or interfere with tasks
  • Be removed to talk to someone

Note: If you're hard of hearing or interact with people who use lip-reading to communicate, consider wearing a clear maskFootnote 3.

The following outlines instances where there is an exception to the requirement to wear a face mask:

  • If a traveller has a medical certificate indicating they are unable to wear a face mask (see Conditions Preventing the Wearing of Face Masks or Face Coverings for an example certificate).

  • If the traveller is a child who is at least two years of age but less than six years of age (i.e., 2-5 years old) and is unable to tolerate wearing a face mask. In this case, the adult responsible for the child must still ensure that a face mask is made readily available to the child prior to boarding an aircraft for a flight and should still try to encourage the child to wear it.

    Note: Children six and older must wear a face mask when travelling, unless their parent or guardian has a medical certificate certifying they are unable to wear one due to medical reasons.

  • During the flight when the safety of the traveller could be endangered by wearing a face mask or for brief periods when the person is eating, drinking or taking oral medications.

    Note: Travellers should make every effort to finish their drink or eat their food within a period of no longer than 15 minutes. Air operators are encouraged to use this guideline, which is defined by the Public Health Agency of Canada as the threshold for “prolonged exposure” when enforcing this provision; however, it is acknowledged that there will be exceptional circumstances that will require some flexibility. It is also suggested that prior to serving any food or drinks in–flight that travellers be reminded that they are only allowed to remove their face mask for a brief period (which could mean 15 minutes or less) to finish drinking or eating and that they must keep their face mask on while waiting for any food or drink. Should a crew member feel the “brief” timeframe has been exceeded, they will ask them traveller to put their face mask back on. Failure to comply could result in a fine for the traveller.

  • When a person who is asked by an air operator official, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), a Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officer, or a Canadian public health official to briefly remove their face mask at the security screening, boarding gate or customs controlled areas of the airport for identification purposes.