The WestJet Group has released multiple safety updates, including the potential for denied travel and a one-year WestJet Group travel ban for those who fail to comply with the airlines’ mask regulation.
It also announced the mandatory input of all guests’ contact information at online and kiosk check-in to help the Public Health Agency of Canada and the provincial public health agencies across Canada with contact tracing in the case of infected individuals on board.
The WestJet Group includes WestJet, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link and Swoop.
Zero Tolerance Mask Policy
Beginning Sept. 1, 2020, the WestJet Group will implement a zero-tolerance policy in support of the requirement for all guests, over the age of two, to wear masks and face coverings.
Non-compliant guests will face penalties including denied boarding, return of the aircraft to the gate to offload the passenger and the suspension of travel on any WestJet Group aircraft for up to one year.
Ed Sims, The WestJet Group president and CEO, said that: “Canadian travellers and all of our WestJet Group employees are counting on us to keep them safe and it is our utmost priority to do so.”
Sims made it clear that: “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.”
And he added that: “Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines.”
Non-compliance on board the aircraft will be managed through a three-step process:
- Passengers will first be asked to put the mask on in a discussion with cabin crew.
- Passengers will be given a warning that masks are required, and compliance is necessary.
- Passengers will receive notice that non-compliance will result in follow up notification that they will be placed on a no-fly list for 12-months.
Since April 20, 2020, it has been mandatory for travellers to wear protective face coverings throughout their travel journey, including at the airport and while in flight and at the airport.
As outlined by Transport Canada, travellers requiring an exemption to the regulation for health reasons must produce a certified medical note or will be subject to the measures as outlined.
Complete guidelines on non-medical masks are available at https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/diseases/2019-novel-coronavirus-infection/prevention-risks/about-non-medical-masks-face-coverings.html
Prior to flying, it is important travellers understand the current regulations and modifications to services in response to COVID-19. Travellers that wish to eat or drink while on board remain able to do so if they replace their mask once finished.
Contact Tracing Enhancements
Effective, Sept. 1, 2020, the input of contact information for those travelling on WestJet, WestJet Encore, WestJet Link and Swoop will become mandatory at the 24-hour check-in process online and at kiosks.
Mandatory information at WestJet check-in kiosks will be phased into the policy change by the end of September.
Once implemented, guests will no longer be able to bypass the information screen and will be required to input up-to-date information prior to the issuance of a boarding pass.
It is the responsibility of the traveller to provide accurate information.
Sims notes that: “We continue to work collaboratively with our health partners to adapt our procedures. A coordinated approach is essential, and we are advocating for contact tracing enhancements along with the introduction of testing.”
And Chris Rauenbusch, president CUPE Local 4070, noted that: “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.”
Since March, the WestJet Group has been the only Canadian airline to provide full transparency in advising the public of flights affected by COVID-19.
Between March 23 and August 25, WestJet has flown more than 725,000 guests on 19,370 flights.
Of those, the airline has been notified of just over 230 flights where infected individuals have flown, this accounts for less than one per cent of flights. Swoop has operated 1,070 flights with 103,000 travellers and has been notified of eight flights where infected individuals have flown, accounting for less than one per cent of flights. There have been no reported cases of transmission on board any WestJet Group aircraft.
WestJet (including WestJet Encore and WestJet Link) and Swoop remain the only operators in Canada taking the extra steps to post affected flights to external channels in effort to inform the public at large and to aid the media in assisting public health officials in disseminating information as quickly and as broadly as possible.
WestJet has built a framework to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly. From the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline invested quickly in hygiene and safety measures to mitigate the risk throughout the entire travel journey, investing millions of dollars’ worth of equipment, cleaning and additional measures to protect those who had to fly. The airline continues to invest, test and trial multiple additional safety measures to ensure safety above all.