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Two WestJet passengers face $1000 fines for refusing to wear masks

Struggling to overcome the public’s fear of flying in the middle of the pandemic, the air travel industry is cracking down on the need for passengers to wear face coverings on flights. Two airline passengers each face fines of $1,000 for refusing to wear face masks on board a flight. It is the first time Transport Canada has imposed a financial penalty for violating rules meant to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first incident occurred on a WestJet flight from Calgary to Waterloo, Ont., in June and the second on a WestJet trip from Vancouver to Calgary in July.

“In both incidents, the individuals were directed repeatedly by the air crew to wear their face coverings during the flights and in both cases, the individuals refused,” the aviation regulator, which did not name the passengers, said Friday.

Masks or face coverings have been mandatory on flights and in terminals since April 20 as part of the federal government’s response to the pandemic. Exceptions include travellers who are under two years old, who are eating or drinking or who have breathing difficulties.

The announcement comes three days after WestJet announced a strict new policy to ensure passengers wear face coverings, with consequences for refusal that include a year-long travel ban.

Air Canada and WestJet have each announced pilot projects to test passengers for the coronavirus this fall, with the ultimate goal of furnishing “alternatives to the current blanket restrictions and quarantine” on foreign travellers and returning Canadians, respectively, Air Canada chief medical officer Dr. Jim Chung said in a statement Thursday.

Hamilton researchers are currently engaged in a testing program at Toronto Pearson Airport to determine if the current blanket restrictions, particularly the 14 day quarantine rule, are needed.

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