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Holiday air travel: the stats and the advice against it

Click to play video 'Holiday air travel' Holiday air travel
Traditionally, this time of year is one of the busiest for the travel industry, with Christmas a month away. But this year is much different - especially in Canada. Malika Karim reports – Nov 25, 2020

Airport check-ins look much different now when arriving at Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.

Masks, temperature checks and questionnaires on COVID-19 symptoms are required when navigating through the terminal.

The airline and travel industry have taken a major hit this year with domestic and international flyers.

“It’s really depressing,” said Michael Kroeker, president and owner of Bonaventure Travel, Inc. “We’re probably down 95 per cent over the last year. I could count on one hand how many bookings we’ve had for the Christmas season and March break.”

Kroeker notes he’s noticed that with Manitoba’s 14-day quarantine requirements for travellers returning from international destinations and east of northwestern Ontario, the majority of his clients aren’t looking to book this year.

Read more: ‘People just want to feel normal’: Christmas trees selling like crazy in Winnipeg

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COVID-19 safety also a concern for some travellers looking to get onto a plane this year, but epidemiologists say planes are safer than you think.

“When I try to find data on outbreaks related to air travel, I can find almost nothing as a specific category,” said epidemiologist and founder of EPI Research Inc., Cynthia Carr.

“Within an aircraft, there are safety measures in place. What they have on aircrafts is ventilation systems very similar to what they have in hospitals or operating rooms.”

Carr said health concerns around COVID-19 safety measures are more alarming when looking at what happens before you board a flight.

“There’s risk associated with every other decision you make,” Carr said. “What you’re doing within the airport itself, in terms of choke points, in terms of line ups, in terms of touching things.”
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Manitoba’s top doctor: too soon to say what holidays might look like – Nov 24, 2020
Experts also say to look at the rate of community spread of COVID-19 in both your departure and arrival destinations before deciding to travel this year.“If there’s high rates of community spread you have risks of contracting the virus yourself,” Carr said. “But also understand the health care system in that area will be under an enormous amount of pressure.”

Manitoba’s Chief Provincial Public Health Officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, said Wednesday if COVID-19 case numbers in the province improve, some restrictions could be lifted before the holidays.

But for now, avoid planning any non-essential travel or gathering, he said.

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“The messaging right now has to be don’t plan to travel or have visitors from outside of Manitoba coming for the holidays,” Dr. Roussin said.

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“Even within Manitoba people shouldn’t be planning to have gatherings outside of their household.”