Staffing issues and evolving travel and entry requirements continue to challenge business aircraft operators flying into Canada more than a year after the country reopened to international travelers.
In particular, “all travelers into Canada must now be vaccinated, including flight crews that were originally exempt,” said Ron Bojanski, CAM, Canadian flight operations manager at Kiewit Engineering Group.
Other requirements, including use of facemasks, remain in place, but some have been eased. For example, “they’ve relaxed the requirement to provide documentation that those onboard were doing essential work,” Bojanski said.
All persons traveling into Canada must upload their vaccination information to the ArriveCAN website or app 72 hours ahead of their flight. Crew and passenger entry requirements differ, however, and operators must ensure they use the correct process when setting up their travel profile to avoid headaches.
“Passengers may also be called for random screening for COVID-19 on arrival,” noted Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA) President and CEO Anthony Norejko. “Flight crews are exempt from this requirement, but they may be called as well if they didn’t specifically identify themselves as a crewmember.”
While the process isn’t perfect, Norejko noted that systems developed in response to the pandemic could offer benefits in the post-COVID environment. “Uploading your information to ArriveCAN in advance may offer a time savings for business aviation that isn’t in place today,” he said.
Flight crews must submit ArriveCAN codes for all travelers to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) CANPASS program between two and 48 hours ahead of their flight into Canada. Aircraft occupants will not be allowed to disembark without presenting a clearance number on arrival.
More people at CBSA are now working remotely, and the service levels experienced by operators can vary, Norejko said. “One day you might have a great experience, and the next be waiting in the phone queue for an hour.”
“We’ve taken to having both pilots call CANPASS – one on the main number and one an alternate – to speed the process,” said Bojanski. “Otherwise, we may be sitting 45 to 60 minutes with the door closed and our passengers growing increasingly anxious.”
Utilizing the CANPASS Corporate Aircraft program may reduce that timeframe. Bojanski noted that renewals have been extended to Oct. 1 for permits that expired during COVID. “You must specifically state you want to utilize Corporate CANPASS when calling,” he continued. “This can save a ton of time on arrival.”
CBSA is also hiring additional staffers, although new hires may not always have the latest information. “There’s a lot of misinformation out there,” Bojanski said. “Networking with other operators, and organizations like NBAA and CBAA, has often yielded more accurate and up-to-the-minute guidance in my experience.”
Once cleared into the country, operators may experience other pandemic-driven changes at Nav Canada, the country’s ATC provider. Norejko noted that airlines have been granted even greater priority for arrival slots to some airports.
“That effectively limits available slots for business aviation,” he said. “We’ll be watching to see how quickly Nav Canada can recover from COVID.”