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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.
Does Air Canada require passengers to wear a mask while on board?
For the safety and well-being of our customers and employees, Air Canada will require all customers to wear cloth coverings or masks over their mouth and nose while at check-in, during the boarding process and during flight on its aircraft. The new requirement, effective April 20, follows an interim order issued by the federal Minister of Transport requiring travellers to have a face covering in their possession to wear when physical distancing is not possible.
Customers must bring their own face coverings which will be verified prior to boarding all Air Canada flights and prior to security screening at Canadian airports. It is the customers’ responsibility to bring the proper face covering with them. Air Canada will not distribute masks to customers in order to ensure that critical medical masks are reserved for frontline workers. The coverings do not need to be medical masks - any face covering including a scarf or similar item is acceptable.
Customers will need to wear their face covering at the gate, where they will be required to lower it for identification purposes on photo IDs, as required by Canadian regulations.
While on board, customers are further required to wear their face covering at all times except to eat and drink or, in case of an inflight emergency should the oxygen masks be deployed, or when, in the judgement of the crew, appropriate physical distancing can be maintained.
This requirement will apply to all customers except for children under the age of 6 or customers who have a medical condition preventing them from wearing such a covering. This exemption will need to be verified and approved by Air Canada in advance through a medical certificate or Air Canada Fitness to Fly form. Click here for more details on how to submit.
How is Air Canada encouraging social distancing on board?
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.
What does Air Canada do to prevent infected passengers from boarding their aircraft?
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.
What does Air Canada do to protect passengers if a passenger exhibits symptoms of COVID-19?
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.
What does Air Canada do if a passenger is identified as having travelled with COVID-19 post flight?
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.
Can I be infected by the air in the aircraft if an infected passenger is onboard?
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.
What are Air Canada’s grooming procedures to eliminate the virus which causes COVID-19?
Coronaviruses are easily eliminated by routine surface cleaning and sanitization. Air Canada uses cleaning products, including medical-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, tray tables, in-flight entertainment screens and surrounding hard surfaces, armrests, headrest covers, windows and window shades, passenger lights, seat and air controls, seat buckles, and overhead bin handles. Aircraft overnighting in a station receive full sanitization which includes the same areas plus any hard surfaces not frequently touched like the interior of the overhead bin, sidewalls and ceilings, the galleys and the flight deck. As per PHAC guidelines and other resources, coronaviruses do not readily survive on soft materials (headrest covers, seat covers, carpets, etc.). However, these are replaced if soiled by biological fluids.
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