Canada has announced a new set of stricter entry restrictions, with enforcement beginning on 07 January 2021.

The short version of the new rules can be found here.

The slightly longer and more detailed version is here.

And the immensely long, complete and unabridged version is here.

We’ve waded through all three to try to pick out the most important bits…

Here’s the lowdown:

  • All international passengers arriving in Canada will now need a negative PCR or LAMP test taken within 72 hours of their flight, and must quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
  • Canadian citizens (dual citizens too) are generally fine to enter, but any foreign national needs to meet certain criteria. There is a list defining what is considered ‘essential travel’ and would therefore be allowed – any form of tourism is not acceptable.
  • Flight crew are exempt from both the testing and quarantine requirements. In addition, the guidance says you’re also exempt if you “enter Canada only to become such a crew member” (i.e. fly in as a passenger in order to operate out as a crew member).
  • The Canadian Border Services Agents have final say, and we’ve had reports of flights with all the correct documentation still being turned away. Good practice is to use CANPASS if you have it, and seek approval well in advance – this, along with your point of origin, may affect where you need to first land in Canada. But beware, different provinces have different rules and levels of restriction, so get as granular as you can with your research.

Other stuff to watch out for:

All operators must ensure that passengers understand the following:

  1. They will be subject to Covid-19 mitigation measures in Canada.
  2. They will be required to quarantine on arrival and must have a quarantine plan.
  3. They can be fined for providing false or misleading information.
  4. They will be denied boarding if they are symptomatic or have been recently, and further will not be able to board a Canada bound aircraft for 14 days – i.e. the operator must have a pre-boarding ‘health check’ in place. 
  5. They must wear a face mask during boarding, flight, and once the doors open in Canada (the usual exemptions apply for safety, young children, those with medical proof, and while eating/drinking).

The first three points can be proven by the passengers using ArriveCAN to upload all their required documents.

The latter points will need to be established as a process (detailed guidance in the Order: Section 8 to 10)  and also incorporated into your pre-flight safety briefing. We highly recommend you evidence all of this, and have copies available to show authorities on arrival.

Crew must also wear face masks at all times, except for when they would impact safety or operational duties, or they are consuming food or drink. Flight deck crew are exempt, as are certain visitors to the flight deck.

Additionally, if you are a commercial air carrier, you are required to conduct temperature checks of all passengers, with records of who, when, how hot (or cold!), what equipment, which staff, and lots more – and maintain records of this for at least 90 days. See Section 11 to 31 of the Order. Private carriers appear to be exempt from this particular requirement.

Maybe an SOP would help…

If you intend to fly into Canada, here is a checklist to go through:

  1. Is your travel absolutely essential, under the Canadian definition?
  2. Do you have a local handler who can provide you up to the minute information for your specific destination?
  3. Do you have CANPASS and can you use it to obtain approval in advance? If not, and especially if flying in from outside the Americas, are you flying to a designated port of entry as your first stop? (CYYZ/Toronto, CYVR/Vancouver, CYUL/Montreal and CYYC/Calgary).
  4. Do all passengers have valid and negative PCR/LAMP test results from within 72h of departure?
  5. Have all parties used ArriveCAN to upload their documents, and received a receipt number?
  6. Have you established a ‘health check’ of all passengers? Has this been documented? Does this need to include a temperature check?
  7. Do all passengers have a quarantine plan, including ground transport arrangements? Though crew are exempt, do they have appropriate facilities arranged?
  8. In the worst case scenario, do you have a contingency plan if you are denied entry?
  9. Do you have both printed and digital copies of absolutely everything you could possibly need? Insurance, ownership, licenses, test results, quarantine plans, health check process, permits, hotel bookings, flight plans… over-prepare!
  10. Does your pre-flight passenger safety briefing include information on destination quarantine, testing requirements, symptoms, and the need for face masks?

If you answer any of the above in the negative, you may run into issues, and we recommend you resolve them before your trip.

If you’re in any doubt, go back and read the super long but totally complete and unabridged version of the rules we told you about before!

What about US citizens?

There’s no special treatment here. While Canadian and US citizens often hold reciprocal rights for ‘fast-track’ entry and hold exemptions over other citizens, the current set of regulations have been applied with a broad brush that restricts anyone apart from Canadian and Canadian-dual citizens from entering without a valid reason.


While there is not any detailed guidance on tech-stops in the new regulations, it does say that transiting passengers are exempt.

So if you’re using a Canadian tech-stop to travel onward to another country, it is likely to be gas and go, with everyone staying onboard and no collection of catering, lav servicing, or anything of the sort.

If you are using a Canadian tech-stop to continue on to another Candian airport, then it becomes your first port of entry and you may be better off using CANPASS to complete your immigration and customs formalities there.

Either way, getting a local handler to give you the latest information, including any local restrictions that may be in place, will likely be the best route to take.

If you have a question or have information to share, use our Slack channels – fly safe, fly smart, and share what you know!

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Diogene De Souza

Diogene De Souza

OpsGroup contributor, duty manager at LHR, and lifelong expatriate. I don't know where home is, but I could plan you a route to get there...

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