Flight Centre’s Carmen Bishop of Vancouver recently flew to Edmonton with Air Canada to experience firsthand what it’s really like to travel with their new safety processes. Here’s what she found!
I Boarded an Air Canada Plane Last Week
Wait, what???? Yes, last Thursday (July 16th, 2020) I was fortunate enough to jump onto a plane for the first time in months. Here is how it all played out:
Checking In at YVR Airport
There were the typical COVID-19 health screening questions and then a staff member took my temperature using a digital thermometer pointed at my forehead. I passed the temperature test and moved to the next step.
I didn’t bring checked luggage for this trip, so, unfortunately, I don’t have a firsthand experience of Air Canada’s TouchFree Bag Check. But here’s a quick run-down of how it works:
You print your bag tags at the dedicated airport kiosk
Scan your boarding pass at the TouchFree Bag Drop, and then put them on the baggage belt
That’s it! This is currently available YYZ, YUL, YYC, and YVR but Air Canada is expanding it to more Canadian airports
I made my way to security very quickly, and I actually went through in about two minutes. There were labels on the floor to help travellers physically distant, but otherwise, our security process felt the same as usual (if not faster).
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge
My travel buddy, Allison Wallace, and I were invited to join the Air Canada staff for a tour of the Maple Leaf Lounge. At the entrance, staff gave us two reusable masks and instructed us to keep them on except for while eating or drinking.
Instead of the normal buffet style food service, the Maple Leaf Lounge provided us with two options for a meal. The food is pre-packaged and comes in a handy bag to take to our corner of the lounge.
While we were eating our breakfast and waiting to head to our gate eating, there was a staff member circulating with an electrostatic disinfectant sprayer every thirty minutes. There were also a few HEPA filters in the lounge to help recycle the air. These are the same standard filters used inside Air Canada’s aircrafts.
Other safety features:
Maple Leaf Lounges are now divided into sections to facilitate regular cleaning
Physical distancing labels
Lots of hand sanitizer stations
All reading materials are digital
Tables, chairs, and washrooms are disinfected after each use
Showers are closed at this time
Boarding the Plane
When it was time to board, the staff took our temperature again. We were requested to provide our ID and to briefly remove our masks to ensure we are who we say we are.
Staff reminded everyone to physically distance ourselves from other passengers while boarding.
Other safety features:
All staff is wearing face coverings and PPE
Gate counters are cleaned regularly
Boarding process allows for safe physical distancing while passengers wait to be called
Inside the Plane
Meal service varies depending on your route. See your Travel Expert for details.
Our flight wasn’t filled to capacity, but you should know that every seat on Air Canada is bookable including middle seats. Fortunately, they’ve put some new processes in place:
Twenty-four hours before your flight, you will have access to view the capacity of the flight and if you are uncomfortable with the number of people or if you see someone has been assigned the seat next to you, Air Canada will permit you to make a free change. The staff even make gate announcements if your flight is reaching capacity so you can explore your other options.
Once we were on board, we were all provided with a CleanCare+ kit which included a small bottle of water, hand sanitizer, 1 mask, disinfectant wipes and gloves.
The flight staff reminded passengers to keep our masks on at all times except to eat or drink. We were also advised if for any reason we needed to replace our mask, to put the original mask into the sick bag.
While meal service varies depending on your route, we were served an example of an international flight meal, which was prepackaged and came with another bottle of water.
More safety features:
Upon arrival, it was a normal deplane (with physical distancing) and our flight to Edmonton was complete.
My Overall Impressions
To be honest, I felt generally safe from start to finish. I certainly do understand the concern about having a stranger next to you, especially if you have your mask off while you’re eating. But with the extra flexibility that Air Canada is giving passengers who want to switch seats or even move to a less full flight, there are ways to get around it on short notice!
Overall, I thought the process was pretty smooth and consistent. I also appreciated that all staff wore masks at all times at check in, on the flight and in the Maple Leaf Lounge.
I think it’s important to keep in mind that not all Canadian airports require masks to be worn (at this time), so it’s a good idea to discuss those requirements with a Travel Expert. For example, masks are mandatory throughout YVR, but at YEG, masks are recommended, but optional.