Federal transport minister must step in to keep airline passengers safe: Federal NDP

AS of July 1, Air Canada and West Jet will resume selling all of the seats on their flights despite ongoing concerns about COVID-19 and the federal NDP is calling on the federal minister of transport to ensure health guidelines, including physical distancing, are enforced to keep passengers safe.

“In committee, the Liberals promised Canadians that their health was the top priority but now they are giving airlines a free pass to put their bottom line ahead of public health,” said NDP Transport Critic Niki Ashton. “Airlines refused to refund passengers for cancelled flights and now they’re completely ignoring public health advice by sitting people right next to each other without even a seat between them for safety. Why is the minister putting the commercial interests of airlines ahead of the health and wellbeing of passengers in Canada?”

Transport Canada claims that thermal screening and masks are enough to protect passengers, but this directly contradicts Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, who has been clear that masks are no substitute for physical distancing. Dr. Tam has also called thermal screening “not effective at all,” and has noted that during the SARS outbreak, Canada scanned 6.3 million people but failed to detect a single case.

“The government claims they’ve taken an evidence-based approach during the pandemic but that’s clearly not what’s happening here,” said NDP Health Critic Don Davies. “Canadians have made a lot of sacrifices to keep each other safe and stop the virus from spreading. Now is not the time to jeopardize the progress we’ve made by allowing airlines to fly into COVID-19 hotspots like California, Florida, and Nevada without any physical distancing requirements. The government needs to step in.”