Saskatchewan airports optimistic about updated travel directions from federal government

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Sask. airports optimistic about vax passport update
WATCH: Airports in Regina and Saskatoon are encouraged by travel announcements from the Canadian government this week. Moises Canales-Lavigne has the story – Oct 22, 2021

“This is very big news. We’re very happy to see this.”

Those are the words from James Bogusz, president and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, following recent updates for passengers to fly within and out of Canada.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a standard federal COVID-19 vaccination proof system.

The passport will display the person’s name, birthdate and their COVID-19 immunization history.

Read more: Canada lifts blanket advisory against non-essential travel introduced amid COVID-19

It will use the provincial vaccine certificate as its framework, which means Saskatchewan residents with proof of vaccination against COVID-19 will see the Canadian government’s logo in the top right corner.

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And while it wasn’t announced by Trudeau, the federal government also lifted its non-essential international travel advisory — a recommendation that was in place since March 2020.

According to the COVID-19 travel advice page on the government of Canada’s website, all international travellers are being advised to be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before travelling. It also says people must follow local public health guidelines in the country they are travelling to.

“We’re very happy to see that,” said Bogusz in an interview with Global News. “As you can imagine, the airports and airlines have been devastated throughout the pandemic.”

These changes might be what airports need to see passenger volumes take off.

According to Bogusz, the Regina airport (YQR) averaged between 24 to 27 departures per day before the pandemic. From July to September of this year, YQR averaged about 50 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes.

Read more: Saskatchewan airports seeing rebound in air passenger traffic this summer

Saskatoon’s airport (YXE) peaked at an average of nearly 124,000 passengers per month between July and September of 2019. That number was just over 61,000 passengers from July to September of 2021.

“This is definitely a positive for the industry,” said CJ Dushinski, vice-president of business development and service quality for YXE. “We’ve certainly started to see an uptick in passenger traffic as vaccination percentages get higher and people are feeling more comfortable with travelling again.”

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However, airports are reminding potential travellers of the new rules surrounding proof of vaccination.

The federal government has already shared that Canadians will need to prove they are fully vaccinated to travel internationally starting Oct. 30. This includes travel by plane, train or cruise ship within the country.

Barb Crowe, a travel advisor with Ixtapa Travel in Saskatoon, mentioned that the trend among possible travellers at this time is to book last-minute trips — usually within 30 days.

Read more: Passenger levels at Regina airport have tripled in July

Crowe suggested there are lots of preparations for people to consider when vacationing abroad during a pandemic, but she believes people will still choose to travel if possible.

“I think it should instill some confidence in people that the government feels it’s okay,” said Crowe. “They lifted that advisory and they feel that if you are fully vaccinated, then you’re safe to go.”

There will be a month grace period following the Oct. 30 deadline for Canadians to get fully vaccinated and have proof of it.

Proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of boarding will be accepted until Nov. 30.

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At this time, other than medical or religious exemptions, Saskatchewan airports are not aware of any other exemptions available to unvaccinated residents beyond the end of November.

— With files from Rachel Gilmore and Sean Boynton

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