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

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

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Driver crashes vehicle twice in one day near Princeton

Abbotsford woman, 29, wasn’t injured in either incident

An opossum (not the one in picture) at Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center in Abbotsford is included in an episode of CBC TV’s The Nature of Things on Jan. 29. (Submitted photo)
Elizabeth’s Wildlife Center in Abbotsford part of CBC TV program on wind

The Nature of Things episode includes opossum that uses scent to find a meal

Abbotsford Police is investigating after bullet casings were found following a shots fired call at the intersection of Purcell Avenue and Wells Gray Avenue on Tuesday night. (File photo)
Bullet casings found after shots-fired call in Abbotsford on Tuesday

Abbotsford Police Department seeking witnesses and CCTV footage following shooting

A Chilliwack driver’s vehicle was impounded for seven days after an excessive speeding violation. (RCMP photo)
RCMP catch Chilliwack driver doing 60 km/h over posted speed limit

The motorist was hit with a big ticket and a seven day vehicle impoundment

UFV assistant kinesiology professor Dr. Iris Lesser exercises along Chilliwack's Vedder Rotary Trail with her daughter Kaia. (UFV photo)
UFV study finds women with reduced physical activity had more mental health struggles during COVID pandemic

The study suggested women suffered more than men as gyms, parks and playgrounds shut down

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

BC Place Stadium in a photo posted to cisc-icca.ca.
Roof of BC Place a stage for performers during online music festival

‘This will be the first time any artists have performed from the 204-foot iconic Vancouver rooftop’

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Former Vancouver Giants forward Evander Kane is seen here in Game 7 of the second round of the 2009 WHL playoffs against the Spokane Chiefs (Sam Chan under Wikipedia Commons licence)
Gambling debts revealed in details of bankruptcy filing by hockey star Evander Kane

Sharks left winger and former Vancouver Giants player owes close to $30 million total

Othman “Adam” Hamdan, pictured in front of Christina Lake’s Welcome Centre, was acquitted of terrorism related charges in 2017. He has been living in Christina Lake since November 2020. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Man acquitted on terrorism charges awaits deportation trial while living in Kootenays

Othman Ayed Hamdan said he wants to lead a normal life while he works on his upcoming book

B.C. Premier John Horgan wears a protective face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 prior to being sworn in by The Honourable Janet Austin, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, November 26, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Premier Horgan calls jumping COVID vaccine queue ‘un-Canadian’

Horgan says most people in B.C. are doing their best to follow current public health guidelines

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
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

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart share a laugh while speaking to the media before sitting down for a meeting at City Hall, in Vancouver, on Friday August 30, 2019. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
Vancouver mayor, Health Canada to formally discuss drug decriminalization

Kennedy Stewart says he’s encouraged by the federal health minister’s commitment to work with the city

Most Read