As Manitoba continues to open up amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Winnipeg Airports Authority is cautiously optimistic about the future of the air travel industry.
Winnipeg Airports Authority president and CEO Barry Rempel told 680 CJOB on Tuesday that news about WestJet operating more frequent Canadian flights — to destinations including Winnipeg — in July is a step in the right direction.
“I’m actually pretty pleased to be able to talk about something that’s going to start providing hope,” said Rempel.
“We’ve been working in the industry roundtable for a period of time now just trying to figure out what’s the best way to open.
“It’s really good to see the industry coming together to try now and bring us back to some measure of connectivity that we just haven’t seen for some time.”
In a release Tuesday, WestJet called its summer schedule an opportunity for Canadians to “get out and explore” after months on lockdown due to the novel coronavirus.
“Governments and Canadians from coast to coast are working together to lessen the impact of this pandemic, and we are grateful that these efforts have put us in a position to add more options for travel this July,” said Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet’s chief commercial officer.
“Jurisdictions around the world are opening, allowing citizens to begin flying once again, which is kick-starting their economies for recovery. We’ve heard from the communities we serve and look forward to having Canadians safely participate and stimulate domestic tourism this summer.”
Looking beyond the summer, travellers may be able to experience warm weather during our coldest months despite the pandemic.
Rempel said he’s confident that not only airlines are adapting to the new normal with increased health and safety measures, including “hospital-grade” air filters, but airports are doing their part as well.
The state-of-the-art cleaning program at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport has enhanced all of the airport’s cleaning and sanitizing routines, he said, and will offer travellers more hand sanitizer availability, touchless washroom features and some areas of the terminal that require non-medical masks.
Although restrictions are slowly being eased, the federal government continues to advise against international travel.
In Manitoba, travel restrictions are expected to be further loosened with the release of the provincial government’s Phase 3.
According to a draft of Phase 3, there will no longer be a need to self-isolate if you’re travelling from northern Ontario or Western Canada.
Where the line into northern Ontario will be has yet to be decided, said Premier Brian Pallister, although it will likely be somewhere west of Thunder Bay.
At present, Manitoba has a 14-day quarantine requirement for anyone traveling from out of province.