A Westjet Boeing 737-800, left, taxis past an Air Canada Rouge Airbus A319 at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday, April 28, 2014. A new poll suggests turbulence ahead when it comes to the airlines winning public support for their current COVID-19 plans. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Turbulence in Canadian opinion on airlines COVID-19 response: poll

Thousands of people have beseeched Transport Minister Marc Garneau to compel airlines to issue refunds,

A new poll suggests turbulence ahead for airlines seeking public support for their current COVID-19 plans.

Seventy-two per cent of Canadians surveyed by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies say they’re not comfortable flying since a decision by some airlines to relax their own in-flight physical distancing requirements.

As of July 1, Air Canada and WestJet both ended policies blocking the sale of adjacent seats.

The measure was seen to align with a guidance document for the aviation industry issued by Transport Canada in April to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Among other things, the department had suggested passengers should be widely spaced when possible, though they did not make it mandatory.

Airlines, however, are required to make passengers and air crews wear masks.

Only 22 per cent of those surveyed said they’re comfortable getting aboard with no in-flight physical distancing and a requirement to wear masks.

There’s more to it to keep flights safe, WestJet said in a statement last week after critics attacked its plan.

“What makes an airplane, and the entire journey, safe is the layers of enhanced cleaning, the wearing of masks and the hospital-grade HEPA filters that remove 99.999 per cent of all airborne particles,” the airline said.

“The hygiene standards we have now are world-class and backed by industry experts.”

Critics have also previously pounced on the airlines for another move: refusing to fully refund tickets for flights cancelled due to the pandemic.

READ MORE: Canada extends travel ban for non-U.S. foreign travellers to July 31

Thousands of people have beseeched Transport Minister Marc Garneau to compel airlines to issue refunds, but he has refused, arguing that mandating reimbursements from a sector that’s lost more than 90 per cent of its revenue would cripple the industry.

But 72 per cent of those polled say they totally oppose his decision.

In lieu of refunds, the airlines have offered vouchers but the poll suggests that it may take a while before people will rebook previously cancelled trips: 85 per cent of those surveyed told pollsters they have no plans to travel outside the country by the end of the year.

The survey polled 1,517 people and can’t be assigned a margin of error because online polls are not considered truly random.

Pollsters were in the field between July 3 and 5, a historically popular few days for Canadians and Americans to be on the move between the two countries, given the July 1 Canada Day holiday and the U.S.’s July 4 Independence Day.

But the border remains closed to non-essential traffic, and the majority of Canadians surveyed said they feel it needs to stay that way. The current mutual closure agreement is due to expire July 21.

Of Canadians polled, 86 per cent said they totally disagreed with re-opening the border at the end of July, allowing Americans back into the country.

Americans seem more eager both to head north and to welcome Canadians south; 50 per cent agreed the border should re-open and 36 per cent disagreed.

The potential for cross-border transmission of the virus has been a key factor in the decision to keep the border closed. Currently, rates of COVID-19 infection in the U.S. continue to climb, while in Canada the curve appears to be on a downward trajectory nearly everywhere.

READ MORE: Watchdog says flight refund rules may need reworking to address possible ‘gaps’

Still, the survey suggests Canadians don’t feel they are out of the woods. Thirty-nine per cent believe the worst is yet to come, while 35 per cent believe the worst of the crisis has passed.

In the U.S., 42 per cent of those surveyed felt the darkest days are ahead, 25 per cent believe the U.S. is in the middle of the worst part now while 21 per cent think that’s already passed.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Air TravelCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The River Forecast Centre is maintaining a flood watch for the area, including the Bella Coola River and tributaries, Kingcome River, Owikeeno-Rivers Inlet, and surrounding areas.
Wuikinuxv under evacuation order, more rain in forecast

Bella Coola’s Hill has re-opened but road conditions are muddy and wet

One person was killed in a two-vehicle crash south of Williams Lake on Highway 97 Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (Photo submitted)
Highway 97 crash south of Williams Lake claims one life

Road conditions at the time were slippery and covered with slush: RCMP

Highway 20 is closed from the top Avalanche gate to the bottom Avalanche gate as of 19:30 on Tuesday October 27, 2020 (WL Tribune photo)
Rockslide closes the Hill as rain pours down in Bella Coola

Bad weather has resulted in rockfall on the Hill on Highway 20

The River Forecast Centre is issuing a Flood Watch for the Central Coast including Bella Coola River (file photo)
Flood watch issued for Bella Coola River

The River Forecast Centre is issuing a Flood Watch for the Bella Coola River

Two of the three grizzly cubs that were relocated to Smithers after their mother was killed (Caitlin Thompson photo)
Bella Coola residents urged to secure attractants after two sow grizzlies killed

One sow was a mother to three cubs of the year, which have been transported to Smithers

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

An untitled Emily Carr painting of Finlayson Point was donated to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria by brothers Ian and Andrew Burchett. The painting had been in their family for several decades. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria)
Never before seen painting by famed B.C. artist Emily Carr gifted to Victoria gallery

Painting among several donated to Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

The B.C. Centre for Disease control is telling people to keep an eye out for the poisonous death cap mushroom, which thrives in fall weather conditions. (Paul Kroeger/BCCDC)
Highly poisonous death cap mushroom discovered in Comox

This marks first discovery on Vancouver Island outside Greater Victoria area

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
Rescued bald eagle that came to life in B.C. man’s car had lead poisoning

Bird is on medication and recovering in rehab centre

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Most Read