WestJet to issue 1-year bans for passengers who don't wear masks

WestJet passengers who refuse to wear masks on flights could now face a one-year travel ban on the airline’s flights, officials said this morning.

The Calgary-based air carrier announced Friday that - starting Sept. 1 - the airline will begin a “zero-tolerance” policy on mask-wearing onboard its flights, with passengers who don’t comply facing penalties such as the one-year ban.

Other penalties may include denied boarding and being forced to disembark (even if the flight has already left its gate). Children under the age of two are exempt, however.

“This enhanced policy provides clarity on how we will enforce the regulation for those who don’t,” said WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims in a statement. “Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines.”

Masks have been mandatory since April 20 for air travellers at airports and in flights, according to Transport Canada. Those with a medical-condition exemption require a certified medical note in order to avoid wearing a mask.

WestJet said instances of passengers not wearing masks on planes will first be managed by caving crews asking for compliance; the violating passenger will then be given a warning that compliance is necessary. Passengers who still do not comply will then be issued a notice that they are being placed on a 12-month no-fly list.

The airline is also enhancing contact tracing at the same time, requiring passengers to provide all information required by provincial health authorities upon check-in.