American Airlines disputes $100K fine for flying passengers without negative COVID tests into Canada

American Airlines is disputing a $100,000 fine assessed by Transport Canada for allowing passengers who didn’t produce negative COVID-19 tests to board a flight to Calgary last summer.

The airline received the maximum penalty for contraventions of Transport Canada’s COVID-19 regulations – fines of $25,000 for each each of the four travellers who boarded Flight 4291 in Dallas-Fort Worth.

American has filed a challenge of the penalty with the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada, a federal body that adjudicates cases involving violations of air, rail and marine regulations.

Transport Canada says two other airlines have also been fined under COVID rules, but declined to name them. Neither appear to have filed appeals.

American Airlines’ fine relates to a flight on July 5, 2021, the same day an exemption to quarantine rules for fully vaccinated air travellers arriving in Canada came into effect. At the time, travellers still required negative PCR tests before boarding. It is unclear if confusion over the change was a factor in the breach.

American Airlines did not respond to requests for comment and Transport Canada also declined to comment while the case is under appeal.

The department is also investigating potential violations of the vaccine mandate for domestic air travellers by a charter company that flew protest organizers and lawyers supporting the Freedom Convoy to Ottawa in January.

One of the organizers aboard the flight from Western Canada said they chose to fly on a charter because some of those aboard were not vaccinated. However, Transport Canada says the federal vaccination mandate also applies to chartered flights.

On Friday, the federal government announced some changes to border rules for people entering Canada.

Unvaccinated or partially-vaccinated children under age 12 will no longer be required to produce a negative COVID-19 test before arrival. And fully vaccinated travellers will no longer be required to wear a face mask in public for 14 days after arrival, a rule that few appeared to observe.

But the vaccination mandate and mask requirement for domestic and international flights will remain in place, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said Friday, even though a Florida court struck down mandatory masking aboard flights originating in the U.S. and other forms of public transport.

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