Air Canada’s preventive measures

At Air Canada our core value is Safety First, Always - for our employees and for our customers. In light of recent COVID-19 developments, we would like to share with you some of our preventive measures and answer the most Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help you feel more informed when travelling. 

We want to assure you that protecting our customers from the risk of infection by communicable diseases has always been part of our safety protocols.  While the current COVID-19 is newly identified, it behaves like other human coronaviruses that we have developed expertise in managing in an aircraft environment.  

Air Canada rigorously follows the guidance of all relevant health authorities and follows best demonstrated practices in the prevention and handling of communicable diseases in the air travel industry. Additionally, in the last year, we entered a partnership with a third-party company that monitors infectious diseases all over the world and provides us with information in real-time to ensure we are equipped to make the best decisions at the best time. 

Following new recommendations by the Public Health Agency of Canada, for the safety and well-being of our customers and employees, we are now strongly recommending that all customers wear cloth coverings over their mouths and noses while on board their flight and in all public spaces. The coverings do not need to be medical masks - any face covering including a scarf or similar item is acceptable. Customers choosing to follow these recommendations must bring their own face coverings, as we are unable to supply customers such items in order to ensure that critical medical masks are reserved for frontline workers.

Customers who choose not to cover their face on board our flights, or remove the covering during the flight, will not be refused boarding. However, as per current requirements, if a customer displays any signs of illness, the cabin crew may require them to wear a mask on board.

Customers will need to remove their face covering at the boarding gate for identification purposes on photo IDs, as required by Canadian regulations, or in case of an emergency due to depressurization or when oxygen masks are deployed.

The Public Health Agency of Canada emphasizes that face coverings in any form do not replace or diminish the importance of physical distancing, where possible, and handwashing.

A few ways. First, on flights where possible, our gate agents will be proactively reseating customers in our Economy cabin, to have as few people sitting next to one another as possible. Please note that passengers on the same booking will not be proactively moved.

Second, if we are not able to accommodate adequate social distancing, customers can choose to travel on a later flight at no additional cost.

Additionally, our boarding process has been temporarily adjusted to reduce contact times.

 

Each case is different. However, we have a general protocol that when a passenger who appears unwell attempts to check-in or board an aircraft, our agents will make inquiries of the customer in regard to their health. This can include consultation with our own Medical Desk and or a third-party health provider. In cases where we have grounds to believe someone may be unfit to travel, we can also deny the customer boarding for their own well-being, and that of other customers and employees.

Air Canada has well established protocols for the handling of passengers exhibiting symptoms of communicable diseases and our crews are well trained to manage these situations.  During flight, our Flight Deck crew also have the ability to be in direct contact with medical authorities who can advise in real-time. If determined necessary, health authorities will meet the aircraft to assess and follow up as required.

As with all communicable disease protocols, if someone tests positive for the virus after having travelled on a flight, Air Canada is notified by the appropriate health authority. Depending on the transmission profile of the disease, we are given strict protocol as to who is required for contact tracing. In most situations, information of the persons situated 3 rows ahead and behind the infected person are provided to the health authority.

It is the health authority’s responsibility to contact passengers and advise them of the situation. In most cases, crews primarily working in the specific rows are also included in the contact tracing. Due to privacy laws, the names cannot be disclosed to anyone other than the public health authority.

In addition to other measures, a deep grooming of the aircraft is performed as per the PHAC guidance which includes hospital-grade disinfectant products that have a wide spectrum microbial activity and are effective against human coronavirus.

Our aircraft are equipped with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters which effectively capture 99.9% of particulate from recirculated air in the aircraft cabin. This includes microbial organisms such as bacteria and viruses.  These filters are similar to those used in hospital rooms and like those in hospital rooms, they refresh the cabin air every 2 to 3 minutes for a total of 20 to 30 total air changes per hour.

Coronaviruses are easily eliminated by routine surface cleaning and sanitization.  Air Canada uses cleaning products, including hospital-grade disinfectants which have a wide-spectrum microbial activity and are proven effective against human coronavirus. 

Between each aircraft turn (when an aircraft completes a journey and is readied to “turn” back), all frequently touched areas of the aircraft are sanitized including lavatories, galleys and tray tables. Aircraft overnighting in a station receive full sanitization which includes cleaning and sanitizing all hard surfaces, paying special attention to frequently touched surfaces such as armrests, entertainment screens, windows and window shades, light, air vent and call controls, seat controls, lavatories and seat belt buckles. As per PHAC guidelines and other resources, coronaviruses do not survive on soft materials (head rests, seat covers, carpets, etc.), however they are replaced if soiled by biological fluids.