A group of Canadians in Zimbabwe were wrongfully denied boarding a flight to Toronto after not presenting a confirmed government-authorized hotel booking.
Nicola Dawson was one of those Canadians attempting to return home on Monday after spending the past five years caring for her grandmother.
Aware of the requirements, Dawson downloaded the ArriveCAN app and obtained the COVID-19 molecular test within 72 hours of her flight time, confirming she was negative.
But like many other Canadians returning home this week, the challenge was booking a hotel stay — the federal government’s newest requirement for those arriving from abroad.
And along with so many others, Dawson had no luck after several attempts calling the government-listed number. There is no online booking system at this time.
“I asked the airline to check with the consulate to verify the information was correct,” Dawson told CityNews. “I begged the airline but they weren’t willing to help us out. They promptly pulled our bags and said their directive from the Canadian government is that we aren’t allowed to board.”
According to Transport Canada, providing a hotel reservation before boarding is not a requirement under federal regulation. “Similarly, operators are not required to deny that traveller boarding in the event that person has been unable to book a hotel stay,” it confirmed in an email to CityNews.
Under Transport Canada’s Interim Order, an airline can only deny boarding under the following circumstances:
- Person does not have COVID-19 molecular test that meets the established criteria
- Is COVID symptomatic or refuses to answer the health check questions
- Has an elevated temperature above the threshold of 38° C or greater
- Does not have in their possession or refuses to wear an appropriate face covering
- Is ineligible to enter Canada (e.g., foreign national that does not meet one of the defined exceptions under the Prohibition of Entry requirements) or who fails to make a declaration as to their eligibility
Dawson says the airline employees were trying to be vigilant and had stated that Canada fines an airline if a passenger boards with improper documentation and not just in relation to COVID-19 regulations. “He showed me the screen and it said to confirm hotel booking which was average to the ArriveCAN app and PCR test, so there were three prerequisites prior to boarding in Zimbabwe.”
Transport Canada was unable to provide details as to why some passengers for this specific flight were denied boarding. CityNews reached out to Ethiopian Airlines, but did not receive a response to our inquiry.
Fortunately, Dawson was able to reschedule her flight for later this week, but even with the assistance of her family in Ontario, she has had no success in booking a hotel.
The Public Health Agency of Canada is aware of the issue and contributes it to the high call volume of travellers booking hotels for March and April.
It advises those who were unable to book a hotel to connect with a PHAC official at the airport for assistance.
Nervous about being denied boarding once again, Dawson has been working with the Canadian ambassador in Zimbabwe who has since connected with the airline.
Dawson requested something in writing from Transport Canada via the consulate for her upcoming flight but says they have yet to receive a response.
Dawson believes that this is yet again, mismanaged communication on the part of the Canadian government. “This goes back to the filtering of information. If the information came from the top, and there was an order that was given and it was sent out to all the airlines, we wouldn’t be having this problem.”
Source: City News