Air Canada plans voluntary COVID-19 passenger test trial: analyst note

FILE PHOTO: Air Canada signage is pictured at Vancouver's international airport in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Nelms/File Photo

MONTREAL (Reuters) - Air Canada is planning a voluntary COVID-19 test trial for passengers arriving at the country’s largest airport to help persuade the federal government to end stringent quarantine rules that have crippled air travel, a Raymond James analyst said in a note.

The note, based on a presentation by Air Canada Chief Financial Officer Michael Rousseau at a Raymond James conference on Tuesday, said the carrier is working with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority and expects to begin a trial after the Labor Day holiday on Sept. 7. It would consist of a test at Toronto’s Pearson Airport followed by up to two tests at home.

The trial comes with the hope that “the data collected will convince the government to take more of a science-based approach with the 14-day quarantine requirement waived or reduced for those with successful (negative) tests,” Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth said in the note on Tuesday.

Globally, airlines and airports are pressing a United Nations-led task force to recommend a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of travel as an alternative to quarantines.

Canada’s borders are closed to all noncitizens except for essential workers. Canadians who enter the country from abroad must self-isolate for two weeks.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has dismissed repeated calls from the airline industry to relax air travel restrictions to select countries.

It is not clear what kind of tests would be used, although the note said the ones at home would be administered between five to seven days after arrival, and again at around 10 days.

Air Canada declined to comment on the note. The Greater Toronto Airports Authority directed queries to Air Canada.

Transport Canada and Public Health Agency Canada referred questions about the note to each other.

Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Jonathan Oatis