Relaxed airplane seating policies leave BC health officials "concerned"

Jun 30 2020, 10:31 am

On Tuesday, health officials in British Columbia spoke in depth about their concerns surrounding the relaxation of physical distancing measures on airplanes.

Specifically, companies such as WestJet and Air Canada have ended a policy that blocked the purchase of middle seats on aircraft to promote physical distancing.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addressed the scenario, saying that it’s critical that passengers don’t fly if they’re experiencing any symptoms of the cold or flu.

“We are concerned,” Henry told reporters on Tuesday. “It’s an environment that we know people spend a lot of time in close contact with each other.”

Henry added that while there are some safety measures in place on airlines, it’s “incredibly important to be wearing a mask” as well.

“I know Transport Canada will be working in the airlines to make sure everyone is safe,” she added. “But I think the other really, really important thing that we need to remember is that you should not be travelling if you are ill.”

Henry noted that there had been occasions in the past week “where people have arrived with symptoms and have tested positive for COVID-19.”

Health Minister Adrian Dix built on Henry’s sentiments, adding that “it is absolutely important that screening takes place before people get on planes.”

“That obligation has to be fundamental,” he stressed. “It can’t just be one of those things that becomes quicker and quicker throughout the summer as we need to get people moving. It is fundamental to stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

Dix also addressed the overall changes that had been made by WestJet and Air Canada, saying that he wanted to hear the reasoning from Transport Canada and Health Canada.

“What I’d like to hear from Transport Canada and Health Canada is do they agree with this,” Dix says. “It is absolutely within their jurisdiction to deal with. So if what they’re saying is that what Air Canada and WestJet is doing is acceptable to them, they need to be explicit and they need to explain why.”

Dix also built on the fact that customers should not be flying when they’re experiencing any symptoms of the cold or flu.

“In the meantime, we all have to take our own responsibilities seriously, we cannot, cannot, cannot travel when sick,” he added. “The consequences for other people are significant.”

Henry added that avoiding travel when ill is part of “our respectful travel” whether the destination is within British Columbia or anywhere else in Canada.