Most Canadians uncomfortable flying after airlines relax distancing requirements: survey

Jul 7 2020, 4:30 pm

Most Canadians are uncomfortable with flying now that airlines don’t have strict physical distancing measures.

According to a new survey completed by Leger, 72% of Canadians are uncomfortable flying under the conditions that some airlines have put into place during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The survey specifically asked participants about the allowance of passengers sitting next to one another and airlines selling adjacent seats.

In Ontario, 77% of participants said that they are uncomfortable with the relaxed in-flight physical distancing measures. Meanwhile, in Quebec, 64% said they are uncomfortable.

Seventy-two percent of participants from Alberta and 80% of participants from British Columbia also said that they are uncomfortable with the new measures.

Eighty-five percent of participants also said that they do not plan to travel outside of the country by the end of the year.

The web survey conducted by Leger, from July 3 to July 5, included 1,517 Canadians.

Airlines that now have “relaxed” in-flight physical distancing requirements do mandate the use of a face mask.

On July 1, Air Canada updated its policies surrounding its health and safety measures. This included replacing its previous physical distancing procedure that the airline implemented due to COVID-19. The physical distancing procedure ensured that adjacent seats in the Economy Class were empty.

This means that the company now allows for an increased number of passengers to fly on its aircraft.

Those who are uncomfortable flying have the ability to transfer to an alternative flight occurring within three days of their original booking. They can also be placed on the next available flight for no extra charge.

Before the new protocol was put into place, passengers on 10 different Toronto flights could have been exposed to coronavirus during the second half of June.

Air Canada has said that their aircraft is “equipped with HEPA filters that remove at least 99.9% of bacteria and viruses in the air as the ventilation system constantly refreshes the cabin air every two to three minutes.”

WestJet also updated its safety protocols which eliminated its physical distancing seating policy on their aircraft. This measure was eliminated as the demand for domestic travel and space increased.

WestJet claimed in a release that it will continue to alter its procedures to promote the “safest travel experience.”

“This includes spending millions of dollars in cleaning and sanitization measures, along with personal protective equipment, to ensure the safety and well-being of our guests and our people,” the release said.

The Calgary-based airline also announced at the end of June that it will be laying off more than 3,300 of its employees due to losses incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company’s new protocols began the same day as Air Canada, July 1.

British Columbia health officials spoke in depth about their concern surrounding the relaxation of physical distancing measures on airplanes on June 28.

The New Democratic Party (NDP) is also calling on the Federal Government and Canada’s Minister of Transportation to bring back mandatory physical distancing on airplanes.

Irelyne LaveryIrelyne Lavery

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