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WestJet to suspend flights to four Canadian cities until June amid low travel demand

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WestJet said Thursday that it will suspend service to four Canadian cities amid slumping demand due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Starting March 19, the airline plans to suspend all flights to St. John’s, London, Ont., Lloydminster, Alta. and Medicine Hat, Alta. until June 24. The cuts are the latest in a series of service reductions over the last few months, many of which have affected regional air routes.

“We have continued to operate in the face of uncertainty as domestic and international travel restrictions and quarantines have caused demand to plummet,” WestJet president and chief executive Ed Sims said. “Unfortunately, with new and increasingly restrictive policies, we are left once again, with no other option than to suspend service to these communities.”

Sims added that the company’s ability to return service in certain market depends on the government’s policies, including whether it prioritizes domestic travel for aid.

Flights between St. John’s and Halifax will stop as of March 21 and flights between London and Toronto will be suspended on March 22, WestJet said. WestJet Link flights from Calgary to Lloydminster will end on March 19, and flights from Calgary to Medicine Hat will be suspended on March 21.

Canadian airlines have laid off thousands of workers this year and cut more routes as the federal government implements increasingly strict travel measures.

Air Canada’s former CEO and president, Calin Rovinescu, said last week that talks between airlines and the government about sector-specific aid had accelerated recently, and that he expected the two parties could reach a deal soon.

Meanwhile, low-cost carrier Flair Airlines recently announced plans to expand its domestic service to eight cities in Canada, which will bring its number of domestic destinations to 18 by the summer.

Flair, which also added 13 new Boeing 737 Max planes to its fleet this year, said it is preparing for what it believes will be a restart of tourism and travel beginning in spring and summer.

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Travel & Escape

American woman faces $2,800 parking bill after leaving car in Toronto during pandemic

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Parking in the city can be costly, but one American woman is learning just how bad it can be after being unable to retrieve her car for nearly a year.

Detroit resident Kim Richardson left her 2004 Honda Element at the Park2Sky lot by Pearson airport in March 2020 before flying out to Europe for a medical procedure. She originally planned to retrieve it within two weeks but partway through her trip, the Canada-US border got closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

Richardson’s return flight was rerouted to Detroit and she’s been unable to return to Toronto since.

What was originally a $100 bill has now inflated to $2,800 as the lot’s owner says he has a business to operate and is owed payment for 11 months of storage. However, Richardson believes she’s being extorted for an issue beyond her control.

Park2Sky personnel claim that several Americans who found themselves in similar predicaments have had their cars shipped home.

“I don’t understand, I don’t know what’s going on here. Business is down, I’m not making any money at all. People who leave their car are paid. She’s the only one that hasn’t paid,” said the owner to CBC News this week.

The stalemate is expected to last a while longer as travel restrictions remain in place and Ontario Provincial Police have said they won’t get involved in a civil matter.

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Travel & Escape

All systems are go for St. Lawrence Cruise Lines in 2021

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KINGSTON — Despite Canada’s newly extended cruise ship ban, Canadians still have a small-ship cruising alternative in 2021 with St. Lawrence Cruise Lines.

The small-ship operator, which sails on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers, has confirmed operations for 2021, with overnight cruises on both rivers from May 20 to Oct. 24. A variety of cruises ranging from four to seven nights will depart from Kingston, Ottawa and Quebec City, sailing exclusively in domestic waters with stops at select ports in Ontario and Quebec.

On Feb. 4, Canada’s Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra announced that Canada’s cruise ship ban will be extended until Feb. 28, 2022. This measure, which effectively prohibits cruise vessels carrying more than 100 passengers from operating in Canadian waters, does not impact the small-ship operations of St. Lawrence Cruise Lines and its 32-stateroom CANADIAN EMPRESS.

“We are excited to offer travellers a small ship option for the 2021 season,” said President Jason Clark. “Our overnight cruises stay close to shore in Canadian waters and our COVID-19 Health and Safety program has been recognized for its high standards.”

This past December, the cruise line was awarded the Safe Travels Stamp by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) for adherence to global standards of health and hygiene. The program includes a wide range of safety measures, including reduced passenger loads, masking, physical distancing and hospital-grade electrostatic disinfecting for both private staterooms and shared spaces. Plus, all staterooms have access to fresh air, climate controls and views of the river.

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Travel & Escape

Here’s How Canada’s ‘Screening Officers’ Will Check On Travellers During Quarantine

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The federal government is reminding all travellers in Canada that “Screening Officers” may pay them a visit post-arrival.

In a statement about the country’s latest travel restrictions, Transport Canada confirmed that newly-trained officials would be tasked with checking up on travellers during their two-week quarantine period.

The role of the Screening Officers will be to visit travellers’ quarantine locations to “establish contact, confirm identify and confirm that travellers are at the place of quarantine they identified upon entry into Canada.”

This is to make sure individuals are complying with Canada’s mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement.

The checks will be conducted across 35 Canadian cities, having already started in Montreal and Toronto back in January.

The officials will provide “compliance education” and will be able to issue verbal warnings, but stronger enforcement action will be referred to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and then law enforcement for follow-up checks. 

Failing to comply with the Quarantine Act or with Screening Officers’ instructions could result in fines of up to $750,000 or even jail time.

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