Hundreds of private aircraft from international destinations have landed in airports across Canada without quarantine hotels, despite federal regulations directing flights from abroad to four designated airports.
That’s what a CBC analysis of private flight data has revealed. Its report says that between 22FEB and 26APR, data from flight tracking company FlightAware, “reveals 884 private flights from international destinations to a random sampling of nine airports that don’t have quarantine hotels, including in Hamilton, Ottawa, London, Ont., Kelowna, B.C., St. John’s and Edmonton.”
The tracking does not indicate how many pax were aboard those arriving flights, but does say the aircraft included, “luxury and executive private jets, recreational aircraft and helicopters” “from sun destinations like the Turks & Caicos, Florida, Arizona, California, Tahiti, Hawaii, the Cayman Islands, Bermuda and Mexico.” The report goes on to add, “Commercial air travel to these destinations from Canada has largely been suspended.” It also cites traffic from, “other international cities, like Paris, Beijing, Tokyo, Cairo and Moscow, as well as countries like Brazil and Liberia.”
In addition to funnelling international air arrivals through just four Canadian airports, Ottawa has put in place strict pre-departure, on-arrival, and ‘Day 8’ COVID testing, as well as hotel quarantine rules in place for air arrivals into Canada.
The report quotes Anthony Norejko, CEO of the Canadian Business Aviation Association, which represents the private business aviation industry, who claims that business travel deemed essential accounts for the “bulk of (private) air traffic in Canada.”
But he also admitted that, “when a private company is contracted to fly to a sun destination, it isn’t up to them to ascertain whether it… is for a leisure purpose or a business purpose.”
He did add that, “Canadian companies are following all the testing rules.
“Whatever airport you land at, CBSA [Canadian Border Services Agency] officers are distributing those (take-home COVID) kits to arriving business aviation passengers. And then, subsequent to that, if their determination is such that [travellers] need to go to the government-authorized accommodation, they’re going there or they’re declared essential and they can continue.”
But he also revealed that, “business travellers are also allowed to leave the country before quarantine is over.”
CBC says it reached out to a number of private aviation companies, which nearly all declined to comment, but it reports that at least one of those companies’ online profiles, “advertises a one-hour PCR test upon arrival that the company says allows its clients to skip quarantine hotels. The post, from March, says “we will COVID test you so quickly you won’t have time to get to the hotel.”
Federal government authorities told CBC News that, “smaller, privately-owned aircraft are permitted to land in any airport with a CBSA office to process entries to the country.” And while, “there are no separate COVID-19 safety provisions for travellers arriving by private aircraft,” the report points out there are only quarantine hotels in the proximity of the four airports designated for commercial flight arrivals.
That has some crying foul, and suggesting there are two tiers of travel restrictions: one for everyday Canadians, and another for those who have the means to fly privately.
One traveller who is visiting home after studying in Scotland for two years and was forced to spend precious days of her family visit quarantining in a hotel told CBC, “It just kind of makes me feel like the government puts people, you know, with more money first,” she said. “People that are from an upper class … there’s exceptions for them… it’s definitely a class thing.”