Passengers on Swoop flight to Jamaica incorrectly told they needed negative COVID test

A Swoop plane is seen in this file photo. Ryan Rocca / Global News File

Some passengers on a Swoop Airline flight travelling from Toronto to Montego Bay experienced problems at Pearson Airport Tuesday morning when they were incorrectly told that they needed proof of a negative COVID-19 test to fly to Jamaica.

Andre Newell, a passenger on flight WO644, said in a statement that “dozens of families” were turned away after Swoop “failed to update their staff on the current COVID-19 travel policies.”

“When passengers arrived at the check-in … they were shocked when the airline staff told them that they would require a negative COVID-19 test prior to boarding,” Newell wrote.

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Newell said Swoop “sent dozens of passengers” to the Switch Health counter to get a last-minute test for $70.

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Swoop spokesperson Kelsey Trainor acknowledged the error in a statement sent to Global News.

“We are aware that some travellers booked on flight WO644 from Toronto to Montego Bay, Jamaica experienced challenges at airport check-in this morning as a result of miscommunication with our ground service provider and we sincerely apologize for the interruption to their travel plans,” the statement said.

“The check-in process for this morning’s flight operated under the understanding that Jamaica still required travellers to present a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test to enter the country, despite the requirements having been updated recently.”

Trianor said 189 people were booked on the flight and the majority provided proof of a negative COVID test “as they were unaware the requirements had changed.”

Around 50 passengers were impacted by the error and “have all been reaccommodated or refunded,” she said.

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According to the Visit Jamaica website, as of April 16, a pre-departure negative COVID-19 test is no longer required in order to travel to the country.

“Jamaica will no longer have any travel restrictions that were imposed due to the pandemic as travellers to the island are no longer required to take a COVID-19 test to board a flight,” the website states.

Visit Jamaica said the decision to remove the test requirement was announced last Thursday.

“Despite the confirmation email sent to passengers indicating they visit the travel Jamaica website, the airline staff refused to accept this evidence when produced by multiple passengers,” Newell said.

“When asked to show proof of the airline policy, the airline could not produce documentation. They eventually produced an expired update, dated March 1.”

Trainor said Swoop is “deeply sorry for the inconvenience and frustration this error has caused some travellers.”

Impacted travellers have been given the option to travel to Montego Bay or Kingston, Jamaica on Swoop or WestJet Wednesday, Trainor said.

“Those who travel tomorrow have also been provided hotel accommodation, transportation and meal allowances for this evening.”

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