When international travel resumes, Canada’s borders and airports will be very different
Just like the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago, the COVID-19 pandemic will change the way people travel internationally—the government plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on modernizing border security and updating airport public health measures.
In the most recent federal budget, the federal government announced US$82.5 million to fund COVID-19 testing infrastructure at Canadian airports, and another US$6.7 million to purchase disinfection equipment for the Canadian Air Transport Safety Agency.
Ottawa also allocated 656.1 million Canadian dollars in five years to modernize Canadian border security.
Daniel Gooch, chairman of the Canadian Airports Commission, said that the country’s flight hubs are still unclear about what they expect from them.
“For a long time, we have been hoping to have meaningful discussions with the government on how to do this, but unfortunately, we still don’t know what the different stages of air travel recovery will look like,” Gucci told CBC News.
Gucci said that the operating levels of the four Canadian airports that are still accepting international flights are about 5% of their pre-COVID-19 levels – but with the implementation of current COVID-19 public health measures, they are already operating at full capacity.
“Part of the problem is maintaining a physical distance of two meters,” he said. “When you make this request, you will reach capacity soon. So we can’t increase the number and keep it as it is. This is physically impossible.”
Canada currently does not allow non-essential international travel-although Canadians returning home and exempt travelers (such as essential workers) can enter Canada, provided they comply with certain agreements.
On February 22, the federal government implemented new quarantine measures at the airport, requiring all air passengers returning from non-essential travel abroad to undergo a polymerase chain reaction test (commonly called a PCR test) 72 hours before departure.
The test results must be provided to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) on arrival. Then, the traveler needs to conduct a second test and quarantine for up to 72 hours in a facility authorized by the federal government while waiting for the results.
In the end, it may be very good. If we do it right and implement all of this in the future, this may greatly improve the experience.-Daniel Gucci
Gucci said that while funding for airport testing infrastructure is welcome, once air travel returns to pre-COVID levels, testing at the airport cannot continue.
He said that offering passengers to take home tests, or directing arrivals to off-site testing centers near the airport, will free up space in the terminal and allow more passengers to be handled.
“We are very pleased to see that the Canadian Border Services Agency has received some important funds for border modernization in the federal budget, which will include contactless technology and reduced contact with border services,” he said.
At the core of the move towards contactless travel is the federal government’s ongoing trial with the World Economic Forum and the Netherlands called the “Digital Identity for Famous Travelers” project or KTDI.
The project started with a white paper published in 2018 and was seen as a way to modernize air travel by moving passengers through the airport faster. The white paper stated that as the number of international aviation arrivals is expected to increase by 50% from 2016 to 2030, a new contactless system is needed.
Since international travel is now almost at a standstill, the technology is seen as a way to promote the return to pre-COVID air traffic levels.
Non-contact travel experience
According to the KTDI program, a digital form of identification was created, which contains information about the passenger’s identity, boarding pass, vaccination history, and whether they have recovered from COVID-19. Passengers holding KTDI documents still have to face customs officials, but all other points of contact in the airport may become contactless.
“We are still talking about a world where you need to carry a passport because it is an international border,” a senior CBSA official said of the background.
“We are not talking about changing your passport. But the number of times you have to produce that document or boarding pass to prove who you are and where you are going has decreased.”
The official stated that the KTDI plan is still in its early stages and technical issues are still being resolved. He said that privacy protection must be in place before any such systems are activated.
The official said: “It’s not like the Canadian government puts this information in a central location, or airlines put it in a central location, or border agencies put it in a central location.” “Travelers are in control of themselves. Information.”
Vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers
A CBSA spokesperson told CBC News that the federal $656.1 million investment in border security modernization over five years will fund other “digital self-service tools” that will “reduce touch points” and create more “in Canadian airports” Automated interaction”
CBSA said it will release more information about these measures to the public “in the coming weeks.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will attend the G7 summit in the UK this weekend. Leaders are expected to discuss international vaccination certification-the so-called “vaccine passport.”
The federal government has stated that Canadians who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed to re-enter the country without having to stay in isolation hotels authorized by the government. Confirming the validity of the vaccination status of these travelers will require some kind of vaccine passport, such as the KTDI program. Canadian airports like this idea.
“We really rely on vaccinated and unvaccinated. In this place, you can make some distinctions in the travel experience to make it smoother and more enjoyable for the vaccinated. But we don’t know but the government’s What is the plan,” Gucci said.
Gucci said that once travelers’ vaccination is confirmed, they can be treated differently—perhaps by giving them one test when they arrive or before they leave, rather than the multiple tests that are required now.
Although the exact changes in international travel are still being worked out, Gucci said that the future travel experience will be very different from the past.
“When you walk through the customs hall, maybe you don’t see anyone at all,” he said. “Your verification is done through your facial ID, which is linked to your known traveler’s digital identity certificate, which is linked to your digital health information and digital travel documents.
“In the end, it may be very good. If we do it right and implement all of this in the future, this may greatly improve the experience.”