Passenger calls out Air Canada for not enforcing social distancing on flight

May 8 2020, 9:24 am

A passenger is calling out Air Canada after boarding a crowded flight, that appears to not show enforced physical distancing measures, even though the airlines said they’re using a “multi-layered approach” to reduce the risk of infection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On May 4, the passenger posted a photo on social media of a crowded flight she had taken from Toronto to Vancouver on May 1.

“Absolutely full, no social distancing, whereas WestJet has seat distancing,” she said.

“Unbelievably irresponsible and quite terrifying for your passengers. Don’t know why you bothered enforcing social distancing before we boarded.” 

And, the passenger posted another photo on May 1 of the flight, showing travellers sitting side-by-side.

She remarked that the flight to Vancouver International Airport was “totally unacceptable,” as there was “no social distancing” on the plane.

The passenger who shared the posts, Kathleen Hamilton, told Daily Hive that before boarding the plane she wasn’t aware that the flight would be full until she was getting her boarding pass checked. 

“I asked the woman checking my pass if the flight was full and she said it was, but I felt that she was uncomfortable with that information.” 

Once she boarded the plane, Hamilton said she was “fearful and scared.” 

“How long have we been practicing physical distancing and listening to our government? We’ve all been pretty isolated for sometime and then all of the sudden you’re in a space where everyone is on top of you. It was shocking.” 

Hamilton also noted that the flight attendants could have done more to control the crowd on the plane and that they didn’t do “anything” to ensure of everyone’s safety. 

In response to the incident, Air Canada said they have a “multi-layered approach” which is used as there is not a single measure to “fully protect everyone.”

“No such measure exists, and so we are left to use a combination of approaches to mitigate the risk as far as practical,” the national airline told Daily Hive in a statement on Friday.

Air Canada said that based on recommendations from the Public Health Agency of Canada, and World Health Organizations, the use of nose and mouth coverings in instances where physical distancing is not always possible is an appropriate response — they implemented the mandatory used of face masks for all passengers on April 20.

In addition to the face masks, the Canadian airlines also have temperature screenings (a measure introduced on Monday), symptom screening, physical distancing measures, cleaning and disinfection, contact tracing, changes to onboard service to lift close interactions, and specific measures for the crew members.

In order to ensure better physical distancing measures, Air Canada will be implementing new measures on May 15, which entail gate agents reseating customers to have as few people sitting next to one another as possible.

“If that is not possible, customers have an option to travel on a later flight at no additional cost,” Air Canada said.

“We have been able to arrange distancing on the vast majority of flights because, as noted in our financial results announced Monday, there has been a material drop in air travel.”

On May 4, Air Canada said they lost over $1 billion in the first quarter of the year.

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the airline has implemented company-wide cost reductions, including the accelerated retirement of 79 older aircraft, an adoption of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, and workforce reductions.