Saturday, December 12, 2020

Takeaways from our talk with Roberta from Air Canada – by Anna

To tell you the truth, I was surprised to learn so much from “The Future of Air Travel: A Talk with Roberta of Air Canada” on Thursday, December 10th, 2020. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic I’ve read a lot of news, especially reports on scientific studies and national containment measures, and I’ve thought long and hard about my protracted, involuntary absence from Canada and when/how I can travel to Vancouver again. I’m sure many of you understand how much I miss it!

Due to a technical glitch, the meeting didn’t get recorded, so I thought I’d share some of my notes with all of you. Roberta Cavallini gave us a very clear overview of all the bio-safety measures that have been implemented by Air Canada, including advanced technologies like electrostatic disinfection, HEPA filtration, and contactless protocols for checking in, luggage tagging and in-flight service.

The biggest take-away for me, personally, was that Air Canada will continue to waive all rebooking fees for its customers into 2021. Having heard from others that the dates, times and routes of booked flights have repeatedly been changed – if not completely cancelled – by airlines this year, I kept wondering how I could book anything in advance, like I used to. I’ve always looked for the best price possible for my trips, which meant taking a risk on dates far into the future and worrying about the need to pay if I had to cancel or change the date for some reason. Roberta encouraged us to make bookings early and take advantage of any airfare sales that come up, because Air Canada will honour that price even if you need or just want to make changes later – provided the seasonality of the fare is respected. As most members know, Air Canada Italy has been a CCR sponsor for many years. This doesn’t just mean we get a discount if we book through Roberta. It means we get personal assistance with any issues that may come up, now more than ever, so make sure you write to her at But remember you have to be a current CCR member to qualify for discounts.

Roberta also had great news for people travelling to Ontario and Quebec as she confirmed Air Canada will resume regular direct flights from Rome starting the 1st of March. There will be 4 weekly flights to Toronto and 3 to Montreal.

Readers of the CCR newsletter will probably have noticed the information from the Canadian embassy that we’ve included in the last few weeks regarding new requirements for travellers to Canada, including the use of the ArriveCAN app. As one person told us, her recent experience shows how important it is to successfully submit all your details in advance through the app. Otherwise you’ll have to spend a lot of time making daily calls to government health authorities to report on your condition throughout your quarantine.

Speaking of the “self-isolation” period required in Canada, Roberta mentioned that in September the airline partnered with Toronto’s Pearson International Airport to carry out the biggest experiment in the world testing incoming passengers on-site and at 7- and 14-day intervals afterwards. The findings supported proposals that quarantine be reduced from 14 to 7 days, as have those from a more recent study at Calgary Airport. Fingers crossed!

Air Canada has also recently partnered with Shoppers Drug Mart to provide rapid COVID-19 RT-PRC tests, currently only available at store locations in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. Due to concerns about their reliability, these rapid tests are still only accepted by certain travel destinations, but let’s hope continued improvements will convince authorities on both sides of the Atlantic to use such methods to streamline travel for all passengers.

Thanks again to Roberta for talking the time to speak to us directly at such a busy and tiring time for everyone working at Air Canada Italy. When introducing her, Paul read a message sent directly to the Canadian Club of Rome by Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu that emphasized what a great resource she has been for the airline in Italy for an amazing 29 years of service, and we totally agree! Thanks also to Marielle for coordinating with Roberta and hosting this event via Zoom.

If you are as interested in scientific and public health issues related to COVID-19 as I am, you won’t want to miss another opportunity to learn more during our Q&A with Dr Allison McGeer on January 19.