WestJet Airlines is introducing a zero tolerance mask policy, requiring all guests over the age of two to wear a mask or possibly face a one-year travel ban.
The Calgary-based airline announced Friday that starting on Sept. 1, all passengers will be required to wear masks and face coverings or face penalties including denied boarding, removal from the aircraft and a one-year suspension of travel on any WestJet flight.
"Masks are mandated by our regulator and the vast majority of our guests are happy to keep themselves and each other safe by complying,” WestJet chief executive Ed Sims said in a statement.
“This enhanced policy provides clarity on how we will enforce the regulation for those who don't. Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines."
WestJet said refusal to wear a mask will managed through a three-step process. Passengers will first be asked to put a mask on, then given a warning that masks are required and compliance is necessary. Finally, passengers will receive notice that failure to wear a mask will result in being placed on a no-fly list for 12-months.
Many airlines around the world have been dealing with passengers who have refused to wear masks, which were made mandatory on airplanes and in airports in Canada in April. American carrier Delta Air Lines has placed about 240 people on a no-fly list for failing to comply with the company’s mask policy.
WestJet will also require all passengers to provide information for contact tracing when they check-in to flights online or at airport kiosks.
Air Canada, the country’s largest airline, said in a statement that it will also possibly ban passengers that refuse to comply with its mask policy.
“Air Canada takes safety very seriously and safeguarding our customers' and employees' well-being is always our top priority,” Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
“For this reason, we have a graded approach, up to and including travel bans, to promote compliance with facial covering requirements, just as we do with all safety requirements on board our aircraft.”
The airline confirmed that it has had to deal with passengers that have refused to comply with the mandatory mask policy.
“There have been a small number of incidents where customers have been sanctioned for non-compliance,” Fitzpatrick said.
“Overall, however, our customers are generally respectful of each other and understand the importance of wearing facial coverings for their own protection.”
Air Canada has also partnered with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, which operates Pearson International, to conduct a voluntary COVID-19 test trial for arriving passengers, according to a Raymond James analyst note released this week.
Airline analyst Savanthi Syth wrote that the trial will begin after Sept. 7 and consist of three tests; one conducted at the airport, and two at home. Air Canada “hopes that the data collected will convince the government to take more of a science-based approach with the 14-day quarantine requirement waived or reduced for those with successful tests (i.e. negative),” Syth wrote.
With files from Reuters