Regina, Saskatoon airports regain international flights

The Regina International Airport is one of many Saskatchewan businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Stefanie Davis/CTV News)

Saskatchewan airports will be allowed to accept international flights again starting at the end of the month.

Effective Nov. 30, 2021, Transport Canada announced it would be adding eight airports to the list of locations that permit international flights carrying passengers to land, including Regina International and Saskatoon John G. Diefenbaker International airports.

James Bogusz, the president and CEO of the Regina Airport Authority, confirmed the decision in a news release Tuesday.

“With the recent removal of the federal government’s non-essential travel advisory, and now, the return of international flights to YQR, we’re very excited to welcome back travellers on direct flights to a variety of incredible sun destination,” Bogusz said.

The newly added airports will work with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Canada Border Services Agency and Transport Canada to implement the measures needed to start welcoming international passengers again.

“This is going to give our province a real opportunity to be competitive again and to ensure all international requirements, whether it be goods or people, can freely flow into the beautiful province of Saskatchewan,” Bogusz said.

The effective date coincides with the full implementation of the federal government’s strict proof of vaccination policy for air travellers.

“This measure will help ensure that travellers are able to access more regional airports for their international travels this winter, while continuing to support the Government of Canada’s measured approach to re-opening our border,” Minister of Transport Omar Alghabra said in a news release.

The vaccine requirement will be in a “short transition period” through Nov. 29, where travellers who may be in the process of being vaccinated have the option to show proof of a valid COVID-19 molecular test instead.

Bogusz said travellers will be asked during flight check-in to provide their proof of vaccination, as well as at the airport and potentially in the security line-up as well. He added COVID-19 tests will be available at the airport for those who can’t get vaccinated for medical or religious reasons.

CAA Travel said it started receiving an influx in calls as Tuesday morning as the announcement was made.

“More people started calling us already just to check and see what they can do now and more of the ability to do so,” Terry Kaszas, CAA travel development specialist, said.

Kaszas recommends those who had vacations cancelled due to the pandemic and now have travel credits get in touch with a travel agent.

“We have the ability to check what kind of credits you have,” Kaszas said. “As opposed to going online and trying to do it yourself. You can get lost in the shuffle really easy and could probably miss something. We are here to help you with that.”

He added recommendations, requirement and documentations change daily and a travel agent will be able to help navigate those changes.

Direct flights out of Regina to Mexico, Cuba and the Dominican Republic will be available through Sunwing Airlines starting in December.

Bogusz said YQR is in talks with Westjet to see when it will bring its direct flights to U.S. destinations back to Regina.