Show Us The Science

The WestJet Group has expressed its strong opposition to the travel advisory issued by the federal government yesterday (Dec. 15), arguing that the targeted advice outlined was not based on science and data and significantly undermines aviation’s proven safety record in response to COVID-19.

And it made it abundantly clear that the new measures “are a setback in Canada’s progress and its successful transition from relying on blanket advisories and policies.”

G Adventures’ managing director for Canada, David Green said that: “While all caution must be taken in the interests of public health, recent headlines indicate that boosters are effective against the Omicron variant and the symptoms are mild. As such, [yesterday’s] announcement that the federal government is reinstating the non-essential travel advisory has come as a shock to our industry, which was starting to recover after a successful Black Friday and Cyber Sale period. January traditionally sets agents up for the year ahead with strong sales, but they now face more disruption and turmoil.”

Green pointed out that: “Not only is this a setback to our industry as a whole, but it’s a major frustration for travel agents who will now be inundated with calls from panicked travellers looking to cancel or rebook their holidays, when they should be enjoying a well-earned break before heading into their peak selling period in January.”

In reacting to the announcement, WestJet president and CEO, Harry Taylor said that: “Air travel is the most tested and protected consumer activity in Canada, every person travelling internationally is tested on average twice throughout their travel journey.”

Said Taylor: “As the only fully-vaccinated air travel sector in the world, WestJet is calling on the government to publicly share the travel related COVID-19 data that has been used to re-impose the advisory and advice targeted towards fully-vaccinated Canadians and the travel and tourism industry.”

WestJet also said that international travel standards and policies should be harmonized, yet Canada’s travel measures remain firmly out of step with border policies enacted across the European Union, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The carrier pointed out that the Dec. 15 advisory contradicts WHO’s guidance that states blanket travel bans will not prevent the international spread of COVID-19 and adversely affect lives and livelihoods. And it stated that the federal government should continue to focus on vaccinations and testing, as the pathway for safe and fully-vaccinated international air travel must be preserved.

Said Taylor: “Since the onset of the pandemic, we have safely flown more than seven million guests and air travel has been commended for its commitment to safety. Fully-vaccinated Canadians should not be singled-out for choosing to take part in a safe activity.”

And he continued: “Travel bans, restrictions and blanket advisories are devastating to the continued economic recovery of our country and place tens of thousands of recently recalled Canadian travel and tourism jobs at risk. We are very concerned today’s announcement will create unnecessary disruption and chaos in advance of the holiday travel season.”

And G Adventures’ Green had a message for partners: “I urge agents not to give up hope over the next four weeks when we hope this decision will be reversed. G Adventures continues to promote our Book With Confidence Policy which enables travellers to cancel and rebook up to 14 days before departure. We need to all keep fighting for bookings to continue changing peoples’ lives through travel.”