Canada calls on government to mandate physical distancing on airlines

CTVNewsVancouver has reported Canada´s NDP is calling on the government to mandate physical distancing, following an announcement by Canadian airlines that they would no longer keep seats empty on flights to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the company said.

WestJet and Air Canada have announced they will stop ensuring passengers are spaced out while seated beginning on July 1, though everyone who boards will still be screened and required to wear a mask.

Vancouver-Kingway said that´s a mistake because the federal government needs to make physical distancing mandatory on planes, considering what is known about how the virus spreads in cramped indoor spaces.

NDP called out Flair Airlines, an Edmonton-based discount carrier, for charging passengers a USD 49 fee to keep the seat next to them empty.

The airlines have said they are following guidelines from the International Air Transport Association, which states that while physical distancing is a key recommendation from the World Health Organization, this concept does not reflect the additional screening (e.g. temperature check) of passengers before boarding, so that not all passengers are considered to be infected, nor does it consider the protections offered by the cabin environment.

IATA says air filtration systems on newer aircraft, airflow and the barrier provided by seat backs should all be taken into account when it comes to reducing the risk of virus transmission.

Transport Canada has made temperature screening mandatory for airlines, but not physical distancing.

Other protective measures against COVID-19 have been implemented as part of the multi-layered approach to support reducing the risk of COVID-19. These measures include mandatory health checks on passengers, requiring that passengers wear a non-medical mask or face covering when traveling by air, hand-washing, increased space between agents and passengers, limiting food services, and temperature screenings for passengers at select airports.”

Transport Canada said it worked closely with the Public Health Agency of Canada while developing the measures, and they are based on the best currently available evidence.