Friday was a day some travellers at the Regina International Airport have been dreaming about for months.
Lined up with their suitcases and carry-on bags ready to check in, a handful of these passengers were even seen wearing shorts and sandals despite the minus double-digit weather outside.
It’s because these travellers were getting ready to fly down to Mexico for a winter vacation.
Thursday marked the first time an international flight departed the Saskatoon International Airport for Mexico since the COVID-19 pandemic began. That milestone was marked in Regina on Friday when a Sunwing flight took off to Mexico.
“It’s been a long wait for this,” said travellers Sharon and Shelley on Friday and Regina.
They shared that they were used to booking hot vacations once or twice each winter prior to the pandemic.
“We’re really looking forward to getting some sunshine and a few cocktails. It’s going to be great.”
Another vacationer on the flight from Regina, Larry Hoff, said he’s thrilled to finally go out and adventure.
“We’re totally excited. I haven’t done this for a couple years, so I’m looking forward to it and we’re going to go down and have a great time.”
CJ Dushinski, who serves as the Saskatoon Airport’s vice-president of business development and service quality, said the resumption of direct international flights from Saskatchewan has been a long time coming — especially with people getting vaccinated against COVID-19 and receiving boosters.
She believes it signifies another step towards normalcy and recovery.
It’s exciting to be able to see people get excited about travelling again and going out on vacation, enjoying the company of their friends, families and loved ones,” Dushinski said.
“It’s a really celebratory thing for us here at the airport.”
While it’s positive news for vacationers and airports in the province, health experts around the globe are cautioning travellers of flying internationally as the Omicron variant continues to transmit across borders.
On Friday morning, Canada confirmed 87 Omicron cases in seven jurisdictions. The majority of them were linked to international travel or close contact with travellers, according to Canadian health officials.
Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday that the first Omicron cases were discovered in the province after four people from a single household tested positive for the variant of concern.
During a COVID-19 modelling update from the Canadian government, federal health minister Jean-Yves Duclos said the Omicron variant is “a cruel reminder that a global epidemiological situation can change quickly.”
He added that people should be prepared for the COVID-19 situation and that plans or behaviours may need to change at any given time because of the latest variant.
“Canadians who are thinking of traveling abroad need to be warned that the situation abroad is both risky and unstable,” Duclos mentioned. “They should also know that returning to Canada will likely involve delays and hassle.”
Health officials suggest people should stay within close to home or at least within Canada if they are thinking of travelling soon.
However, if they still choose to fly overseas, travellers are urged to check into the COVID-19 situation occurring at their destination.
— with files from Aaron D’Andrea