WestJet announces zero tolerance face mask policy

A passenger walks past a quiet WestJet check-in counter at the Calgary International Airport on Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

WestJet has announced multiple new safety guidelines including rules that could see passengers banned for up to a year if they don’t comply with the airline’s mask regulations.

Starting Sept. 1, WestJet will be implementing a zero-tolerance policy that will make masks and face coverings mandatory for all passengers over the age of two.

Non-compliant passengers will face penalties including being denied boarding, returning the aircraft to the gate to offload the passenger and the suspension of travel on any WetJet aircraft for up to a year.

“Canadian travellers and all of our WestJet Group employees are counting on us to keep them safe and it is our utmost priority to do so,” said Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO.

“Masks are mandated by our regulator and the vast majority of our guests are happy to keep themselves and each other safe by complying. This enhanced policy provides clarity on how we will enforce the regulation for those who don’t. Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines.”

Non-compliance on board the aircraft will be managed through a three-step process:

  • Passengers will first be asked to put the mask on in a discussion with cabin crew
  • Passengers will be given a warning that masks are required, and compliance is necessary
  • Passengers will receive notice that non-compliance will result in follow up notification that they will be placed on a no-fly list for 12-months. 

Since April, it has been mandatory for travellers to wear protective face coverings during their travel journey, including at the airport and during the flight.

But WestJet says it’s had around 30 incidents in which passengers refused to wear a face covering.

“With the policy news now live, it provides clarity on how we will enforce the regulation for those who don’t comply and we’re committed to providing transparent numbers moving forward on incidents,” spokesperson Morgan Bell stated.

“Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines.”

If passengers require a travel exemption to the regulation for health reasons, they must produce a certified medical note.

In a statement, the union representing WestJet pilots said it supported the airline’s announcement.

“We are pleased to see our employer continue to implement addition layers of health and safety measures, to ensure your journey is as safe as possible,” said Capt. Dave Colquhoun, chair of the WestJet Master Executive Council of the Air Line Pilots Association.

ALPA Canada president Tim Perry said the union “believes that, for a safe and sustainable recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, all sectors of the aviation industry and government must work together to find practical solutions.”

“Taking steps like this will instill increased passenger confidence and keep those flying safer than before,” said Perry.

—With files from Sammy Hudes

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