Air Canada, WestJet to restart Hawaiian routes

WestJet's CEO says he sees more Canadian sun-seekers willing to undergo the 14-day quarantine on return to Canada as winter settles in.

Canada’s largest airlines—Air Canada and WestJet—are preparing to relaunch service to Hawaii in December now that the US state has opted to allow Canadians to bypass a mandatory 14-day quarantine if they test negative for COVID-19.

Beginning in mid-December, Canadian travelers opting to take a test from labs identified by Air Canada and WestJet can skip the quarantine. The test has to be taken within 72 hr. of travel to Hawaii and passengers must receive proof of a negative test prior to departure.

Air Canada is planning to launch flights from Vancouver (YVR) to Honolulu (HNL) and Maui (OGG), and from Calgary (YYC) to OGG. WestJet is starting flights to both HNL and OGG from YVR and YYC.

The decision by Hawaii to allow Canadians to use a negative test in order to avoid the quarantine follows the lifting of the mandatory quarantine for passengers from other US states in mid-October.

As COVID-19 cases rapidly rise in the US mainland, Hawaii has changed its testing requirements. Beginning Nov. 24, travelers that plan to use testing to avoid the quarantine must have their test results prior to arrival.

Previously, if results were delayed upon arrival, travelers would have to quarantine at a hotel until the test results arrived, and if they were negative, the quarantine would be lifted.

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The resumption of service to Hawaii by Air Canada and WestJet comes as those airlines and other industry stakeholders in Canada have been pushing the government to lift quarantines that have been in place since March for anyone entering Canada, including Canadians. Canadians returning from Hawaii will have to undergo the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

Both Air Canada and WestJet are targeting Canadians that often travel to Hawaii during the winter months and could be betting some Canadians might be willing to quarantine when they return home.

At a recent CAPA Live event, WestJet CEO Ed Sims said he suspected that as winter weather settles in, more Canadians—particularly those working from home—will take a chance on a 14-day quarantine on arrival back in Canada. “I suspect you’ll see more of that happening,” he said.

There is some movement by Canada’s government to explore testing as a potential means to change the current quarantine restrictions. The Province of Alberta is partnering with the federal government to conduct a 26-week pilot program to test the easing of quarantine restrictions for residents of Alberta and eligible international travelers arriving at Calgary International Airport. Testing will take place on arrival from all international destinations, and travelers must remain in Alberta once they arrive. They also must quarantine until results are delivered, which can be in as little as two days.

If the test is negative, passengers are no longer required to stay at home, but must commit to taking a second test in six to seven days for validation and data collection.

Photo credit: GoHawaii via Twitter