The federal mandate to provide proof of vaccination by the end of the month has made some northern airlines wonder what this will mean for those living in remote communities where air travel is the only way.

With a few exceptions, Canadians must present proof of vaccination by October 30th in order to fly. It is expected to create challenges in the north, where air travel is often a necessity rather than a luxury.

Kyle Newhook, the operations manager and pilot at North-Wright Airways, said the new restrictions on air travelers should take this into account.

“Air is pretty much the only way to get from place to place in the Arctic in some cases,” he said. “We’re very different from flying Air Canada or Westjet.”

Newhook said it could be stressful having the north “locked in” with southern mandates, largely because of the availability of resources. He said his company is still “collecting information on the types of challenges with compulsory vaccinations”.

“Our main concern is and will remain the protection of all of our passengers … we just know that this can lead to potential stress for some of our customers trying to travel.”

Newhook said people who need more information from the airline are welcome to contact us.

“We’re just like any other airline in the north that only gets this information. We know a lot of people are confused, angry, curious and have questions,” he said.

No other way

Meanwhile, James Heidema, chief operating officer for Northwestern Air Lease in Fort Smith, NWT, says the new restrictions on air travelers are the only way forward.

“The only way to forestall this disease is through herd immunity. I’m not sure we can do it any other way, ”he said.

“This pandemic was not expected and we are all staggering from it trying to figure out what is the best practice. The only thing we know about [it] vaccinate and mask at this point. “

However, he reiterated concerns about some of the complications the new vaccine mandate could cause.

Effects on Medical Passengers

Among the problems, he said, this could potentially hinder people who travel to Edmonton or Yellowknife for medical appointments to receive treatments like chemotherapy or blood transfusions.

“Some of these people cannot be vaccinated because of their illness,” he said. “But at this point in time we have no guidance from Transport Canada or the government as to what these exceptions might be or how to document them. Therefore, we are assuming at this point that we will not allow it if you are not vaccinated.” You on board. “

He said if they take people on board who are not vaccinated they would have to maintain physical distance, which could result in lost revenue.

“We fly 19-passenger planes and we can’t afford to lose four to six seats,” he said.

Another problem is how taking a person on board who is not vaccinated will affect the other passengers.

“What do we say to the vaccinated passengers? And do they still want to fly?” he said.

“It’s a little confusing right now, a little bit chaotic. It is hoped that by October 31st and that we will actually be in the situation where vaccination is required, a number of these questions will be answered.”

Heidema said the airline had met with the health authority and the Northern Air Transport Association, a group that represents northern aircraft, was talking to the federal government.

“These are the really difficult decisions”

Last week, the federal government announced that it would consider exemptions from the vaccination mandate for some remote indigenous communities. Adjustments could include requiring a negative COVID-19 test instead of proof of full vaccination.

Dana Tizya-Tramm, the head of Vuntut Gwichin First Nation in the Yukon, said he wanted exemptions from the federal government’s regulation on vaccination records for its members.

While the northern region of the Yukon – which also includes Old Crow – has the highest vaccination rate in the territory, Tizya-Tramm said there are some community members who won’t get vaccinated, but they should be able to go to doctor’s appointments .

“If our community members are not vaccinated, we shouldn’t punish them for medical appointments for themselves or their children. These are really important decisions and these are the really tough decisions that we have to make in this climate, ”he says called.

Tizya-Tramm says he has not heard from the federal government about the new regulations.