Signage for a new COVID-19 screening centre is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Friday, February 19, 2021. The centre is being set up to allow for the new testing requirements coming into effect Sunday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Signage for a new COVID-19 screening centre is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Friday, February 19, 2021. The centre is being set up to allow for the new testing requirements coming into effect Sunday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

New rules appear to push international air travel down even further than pre-pandemic

Latest change requires incoming travellers to quarantine in specified hotels

Canada’s new COVID-19 testing and quarantine rules for international air travellers appear to have convinced even more would-be travellers to stay put in recent weeks.

In the last two weeks of January international arrivals fell to 106,000 people, and in the first two weeks of February, the figure fell further to 94,000 people, according to data from Canada Border Services Agency.

The drop in international arrivals in early February is about four times the decline seen between early January and early February in 2019 and 2020.

It came after Ottawa started making all international air travellers show proof of negative COVID-19 tests before boarding their planes.

Since Feb. 22, international air travellers also must quarantine in specified hotels for three days after landing, pending the results of second COVID-19 tests.

“That’s a very strong disincentive for people to fly,” said John Gradek, an aviation expert and McGill University lecturer. “They scared everybody with a $2,000 bill for those three days.”

The government began musing about the quarantines in January but didn’t confirm the details until Feb. 12. CBSA data doesn’t yet reflect what impact that may have had.

Reports of 10-hour phone waits to book a room and overcrowded hotels with delayed meal service have only added to the disincentive since the quarantine rule took effect Feb. 22.

“It appears that it’s just running totally out of control,” said Marty Firestone, president of Travel Secure, a Toronto-based company that specializes in travel insurance.

“The whole thing is not only a logistical nightmare, but it’s turning into just, well, a nightmare.”

He said the quarantine is pushing snowbirds to delay their return or to make plans to fly to a border city such as Buffalo, N.Y., and cross into Canada by land — typically via car rental — to avoid being holed up in a hotel. The quarantine applies only to air travellers.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and national public health officials began urging Canadians to avoid international travel last March as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading rapidly around the globe.

By the end of March they started barring most non-citizens or permanent residents from travelling here for purposes that aren’t considered essential — such as helping with the pandemic or truck drivers bringing in supplies.

The impact was relatively swift and massive, with international arrivals falling from an average of about 780,000 a week in April and May 2019, to fewer than 20,000 a week in 2020.

While air travel did start to tick up in the summer, and rose even further in December, overall it has consistently remained less than 10 per cent of what it was in previous years.

There was a small increase after Christmas, with almost 170,000 people arriving in Canada by air between Dec. 28 and Jan. 10.

That compares with about 128,000 between Dec. 14 and Dec. 27.

READ MORE: Long wait times, lack of options frustrate travellers booking hotel quarantines

— With files from Christopher Reynolds

Mia Rabson, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Air TravelCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

About a dozen residents gave feedback on an application to change to zoning to Tourist Commercial. (District of Ucluelet image)
Virtual public hearing held for the Lodge Property in Ucluelet

Mayor and council to make a final decision during the April 14 regular council meeting

The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s Green Point Campground saw an unprecedented flurry of reservations last week. (Pacific Rim National Park Reserve photo)
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s campground sees ‘unprecedented’ interest as reservations open

Green Point Campground is scheduled to open from May 1 – Oct. 12 this year.

Kale is a classic in West Coast gardens.
COLUMN: Kale reigns supreme in West Coast gardens

In Tofino and Ucluelet, kale is a classic.

(B.C. Government photo)
POLL QUESTION: Are you in favour of B.C.’s three-week ban on in-restaurant dining?

Dr. Bonnie Henry called the three week stoppage a “circuit breaker”

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred off Ucluelet just after 12:30 a.m. on April 10 and was reportedly felt as far south as Oregon. (Map via United States Geological Survey)
Quake off Ucluelet reportedly felt as far south as Oregon

Magnitude 1.5 earthquake also reported off Vancouver Island’s west coast hours earlier

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Most Canadians plan to get COVID-19 vaccine, but safety fears drive hesitancy: poll

This comes as confidence in governments is plummeting in provinces being hit hardest by the pandemic

Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox is shown in a 1981. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP)
Terry Fox’s legacy of resilience resonates during COVID-19 crisis, says brother

Fred Fox said his brother’s legacy of resilience has taken on renewed resonance as COVID-19 rages on

A youth was arrested following a car crash on Wallace Street on Saturday, April 10. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Onlookers laugh and jeer as B.C. teen beaten, then forced to strip and walk home

Police arrest older teen, call video shared on social media ‘disturbing’

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

A 41-person air task force, including 12 members from 407 Long Range Patrol Squadron at 19 Wing Comox, seized more than $3 million CND worth of cocaine as part of Op Caribbe. Photo by Canadian Armed Forces Operations/Facebook
Vancouver Island team helps make $368 million three-tonne cocaine seizure

12 members from 19 Wing Comox involved in Op Caribbe

Killer whales surface near Sebastion Beach in Lantzville on Sunday, April 11. (Photos courtesy Ella Smiley)
Chainsaw and friends near the beach thrill orca watchers in Lantzville

Jagged-finned orca named Chainsaw and 17 others spent hours off Sebastion Beach this weekend

Nootka Sound RCMP and DFO Conservation and Protection Officers seized this 30 foot vessel, fishing gear and equipment as well as Chinook salmon, salmon roe, rock fish and ling cod after an investigation on Sept. 11. A judge in Campbell River on February hit the owner and his accomplices with significant fines, a ban on holding fishing licences and loss of equpment, including the boat’s motor and trolling motor. RCMP photo
Washington State trio’s fisheries violations the worst veteran officer has seen in 20 years

Judge bans three men from fishing or holding a fishing licence anywhere in Canada

Most Read