WestJet, Air Canada end physical distancing on flights, will open up all seats starting July 1
Calgary-based WestJet says it will be changing its seating policy on July 1. (File)
CALGARY -- In response to changes with international travel guidelines, both Air Canada and WestJet have announced the removal of seat distancing protocol on domestic flights starting July 1.
The Calgary-based airline made the announcement Friday in a release following a review of the International Air Transport Association's guidance.
Officials said because its flights have HEPA filters installed to clean recirculated air and the air flow in cabins flows from the ceiling to the floor, it did not need the extra barrier.
WestJet added the seat backs also provide protection for passengers.
"WestJet has built a robust framework to ensure Canadians can travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All program. The guidance supports the measures that WestJet has implemented to limit the spread of COVID-19," the company said in the release.
The airline also helps prevent infection through mandatory temperature checks of all passengers, enhanced cleaning and sanitization of all touch points, modifications to its in-flight service, aircraft fogging and a requirement for guests and crew to wear masks.
"Safety is at the forefront of every decision we make and as our industry adapts to a new normal, we will continue to adjust our health measures to ensure the safest travel experience. This includes spending millions of dollars in cleaning and sanitizing measures, along with personal protective equipment, to ensure the safety and well-being of our guests and our people."
WestJet's online booking service is expected to resume regular operations Wednesday.
Air Canada soon followed suit with WestJet's decision, pledging to end the restriction on seats within the same time frame.
The airline, based in Montreal, also has similar health checks for passengers prior to boarding. A spokesperson said the move is part of its COVID-19 strategy.
"The new measures will continue to build on the recommendations of ICAO (the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization) and others that a multi-layered strategy to COVID-19 safety is most effective," Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said in an email.
Previously, Air Canada blocked the sale of adjacent seats in economy class, and WestJet had done the same throughout the entire plane, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
American Airlines also announced Friday that it will start booking flights to full capacity starting next Wednesday.
(With files from The Canadian Press)