More Canadian travelers will soon be able to enjoy quarantine-free vacations in Hawaii thanks to WestJet’s decision to expand its pre-flight testing program to more provinces in the country.
On December 7 the company announced that it would be offering customers from British Columbia and Ontario the opportunity to book a pre-flight COVID-19 test through medical laboratory LifeLabs. This follows the announcement in November that the airline would offer tests to its passengers departing to Hawaii from Calgary International Airport in Alberta.
As a negative COVID-19 test from an approved laboratory, taken within 72 hours of departure, is required for entry to Hawaii without a two-week quarantine period, the news that WestJet is offering more testing locations will be welcomed by travelers.
The decision to expand pre-flight testing indicates that WestJet’s program operating out of YYC has been successful so far, and will provide a boost to Canadians hoping for some winter sun. The news is especially welcome given local travel restrictions are painting a gloomy outlook for domestic travel over Christmas.
Expanded Testing Options A Good Sign For Travelers
Under the expanded program, Canadian’s traveling to Hawaii on WestJet flights from British Columbia and Ontario will now be able to book a COVID-19 test through LifeLabs at approved locations. Currently in British Columbia three labs are available in Vancouver and Coquitlam, while in Ontario passengers can book a test at participating Shoppers Drug Mart stores across the province. WestJet plans to announce more test locations in British Columbia shortly.
The new testing options will allow WestJet customers to take advantage of non-stop flights to Hawaii from Vancouver and Calgary International Airports, with customers from Ontario now able to get tested before taking their connecting flights to these locations. This will allow many more Canadians to enjoy vacations in Hawaii over coming months.
Air Canada is also offering a similar testing program for flights to Hawaii in partnership with Shoppers Drug Mart locations in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, giving Canadians another option for quarantine-free travel to the islands. Air Canada flights to Hawaii are available direct from Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto.
WestJet’s decision to widen the availability of pre-flight COVID-testing represents a step in the right direction for Canadian travelers. The news indicates that the company is confident its pre-flight testing program can offer a safe route back to international travel, and potentially open up yet more destinations to Canadians over coming months.
This is particularly important given that a growing number of countries are requiring travelers to present evidence of a negative COVID-19 test to be granted entry or in order to avoid lengthy periods of self-isolation on arrival. Montreal International Airport is launching a pilot testing program to enable travelers to fly to France, which is one of the countries now requiring international arrivals to show proof of a negative COVID test result.
The main downside for travelers is the significant cost of COVID-19 tests. WestJet’s pre-flight tests will charge passengers CAD$150 in Alberta, CAD$199 in Ontario, and CAD$250 in British Columbia – plus tax – adding a considerable extra expense to vacations. This could be a deterrent to some travelers unless the price of the tests comes down.
Overseas Travel May Prove Appealing Amid Domestic Lockdowns
The greater availability of quarantine-free vacations to Hawaii will nonetheless make overseas travel more appealing to Canadians this winter as local lockdowns to control the spread of COVID-19 continue to limit domestic travel. On December 7 for example, officials in British Columbia announced that local travel restrictions would remain in place over the Christmas period until January 8 at the earliest.
While domestic travel is not encouraged over the holidays, Canadians are still free to travel abroad, providing they are able to quarantine for two weeks when they arrive back in Canada. The new testing options could therefore open up more vacation opportunities as Canadian travelers look to get away over Christmas, with the allure of Hawaii’s tropical climate and pristine beaches, seas and forests likely to prove a welcome change during the winter months ahead.
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