If you’re tempted to catch a flight in the near future, be warned: it could be cancelled.
While the federal government currently discourages international travel, there’s nothing stopping you from taking a plane to most destinations around the world.
But the global travel landscape is rapidly evolving due to the spread of the Omicron variety and extreme weather. Numerous flights have been canceled as dozens of airline personnel contracted the virus, while many others have been canceled due to winter conditions.
In addition, countries around the world are updating their entry and exit requirements. For example, China has banned flights from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) as a growing number of travelers have tested positive for the virus upon arrival in the country.
From Vancouver to Los Cabos
I traveled from Vancouver to Los Cabos, Mexico in early December, just before the government issued the non-essential travel advisory. While I was able to travel with relative ease, there were some tense moments along the way. First, checking in for your flight is now more complicated, as you must show a federal vaccination certificate. While this may not seem that complicated, it throws an extra key into the check-in system.
I flew with WestJet and everything was done at their self service kiosks. There were only a few airline employees helping a huge crowd of travelers check in, and many people relied on other travelers to guide them through the directions. Most people were unfamiliar with scanning the recently issued document from their phone, which slowed everything down. Of course, the best way to avoid feeling jittery is to give yourself plenty of time.
Once you have checked in your bag, proceed to airport security. When I was traveling the domestic ports were considerably busier than the international ones. So if you’re planning to travel within Canada right now, don’t assume that checking in will be a breeze. That said, the security screening process is relatively the same (ie keep your liquids in small bottles and bags, don’t bring food, etc) and you have to separate your clothes and bags in the bins – pretty standard stuff.
You must wear your face mask in all areas of the airport and you may only remove it when you are eating or drinking. Travelers reserved their food and drink for the most part for the designated areas. However, some people lifted their masks at their gates to take a sip and immediately covered their faces afterward.
What you need to know before you go
While my check-in flight was fairly stress-free, save for the minor frustration of scanning my vaccination certificate, there were several items that I had prepared prior to the trip. First, I made sure I knew where to get a PCR test at my destination before I left – this will save you a lot of frustration abroad if you’re supposed to be enjoying your vacation. Second, I entered all my travel details into the ArriveCAN app well in advance of departure, despite only having to enter them 72 hours after my return trip home.
The reason it is necessary to start this process before you leave is that you must show physical proof of vaccination and provide other personal details. If you are unable to provide this information while you are in another country, you may be refused entry.
Check out our ArriveCAN highlights to give you an idea of what it’s like to use the app before you travel.
Return flight home from Mexico
Checking in at the Los Cabos airport was relatively easy. A WestJet employee asked to see my ArriveCAN receipt, but the process was easy. I also made physical copies of all my documents in case the internet goes down or my phone breaks down.
While my outbound flight was direct, my return journey included a connection in Calgary. If the first flight had departed on time, I would have had time to collect my checked bag in Calgary and go through customs to board the final leg of my journey. However, my plane arrived late in Los Cabos from Calgary due to wintry weather conditions. As a result, our flight arrived in Calgary quite late.
Please note that if you are flying internationally and have a domestic connection, you will need to take your checked baggage through customs. I ended up missing my second flight because they finished boarding right after I ran across the airport (running is a lot harder all masked and carrying a heavy bag!)
This seemed like a nightmare at the time, but WestJet booked countless passengers and me on the next flight for free. I got home a few hours later than I planned, but I consider that a win, considering how bad it might have been.
While going through security, I noticed several people were being tested for COVID-19 upon arrival. However, the passengers on my flight connecting to Vancouver were not tested due to time. With this in mind, this was during the period when YVR and other Canadian airports were just rolling out their respective travel test programs.
Another thing that really stood out during the experience was the lone man who became combative when asked to show proof of vaccination. Fortunately he was an anomaly; he was the only person I saw make a problem with the pandemic related rules. That said, it’s something to keep in mind as tensions run high: be aware of your surroundings and stay safe.
Metro Vancouver residents: what you need to know about travel now
Disclaimer: Vancouver Is Awesome does not support travel during the non-essential travel advice. Many foreign governments are implementing strict travel restrictions due to the spread of the Omicron variant and international transportation options may be limited. As a result, it may be difficult to return to Canada.