Evidence of meeting #29 for Health in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was industry.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kevin Brosseau  Assistant Deputy Minister, Safety and Security, Department of Transport
Lawrence Hanson  Assistant Deputy Minister, Policy, Department of Transport
Wendy Nixon  Director General, Aviation Security, Department of Transport
Nicholas Robinson  Director General, Civil Aviation, Department of Transport
Ferio Pugliese  Senior Vice-President, Air Canada Express and Government Relations, Air Canada
Jim Chung  Chief Medical Officer, Air Canada
Howard Liebman  Senior Director, Government and Community Affairs, Air Transat
Jared Mikoch-Gerke  Manager, Aviation Security, WestJet Airlines Ltd.
Dave Bourdages  Vice-President, In-Flight Service and Customer Experience, Air Transat

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ron McKinnon

Dr. Chung, could you hold up your mike, please?

2:35 p.m.

Chief Medical Officer, Air Canada

Dr. Jim Chung

I apologize, Mr. Chair.

That's why we advocate and why all the expert guidance has been on a multi-layered approach, recognizing that there are periods when one will perhaps be unable to maintain social distancing, hence the other non-pharmaceutical interventions, such as hand hygiene and wearing facial coverings. That's why those other measures are just as important.

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you.

What about Air Canada? Can you explain the CleanCare program, the new safety protocol of flying during COVID-19? Do you think customers are responding to your program?

2:35 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Air Canada Express and Government Relations, Air Canada

Ferio Pugliese

I'll start quickly, just to give you a sense of the program. CleanCare+ was instituted roughly a month ago. We were the first airline to introduce the temperature checks and the wearing of masks. It's essentially designed to ensure that we take additional measures within the cabin to keep it sterile and clean. Now everybody who arrives on the aircraft will receive a packet that contains hand sanitizer, wipes, a mask and gloves. Then, the aircraft is static-sprayed on every arrival, pre-departure.

There are designated lavatories for crew, as well as for passengers. All the collateral within the aircraft, where you used to see things in the seatback and so on, has been removed to prevent anything from landing on surfaces. That's in addition to the air quality.

Jim, do you want to add anything to that?

2:40 p.m.

Chief Medical Officer, Air Canada

Dr. Jim Chung

No, I think you've covered it pretty well, Ferio.

Certainly, just to reiterate, we've instituted a multi-layered approach and are also handing out all those non-pharmaceuticals for intervention, such as masks, the hand sanitizer and the wipes, as well as other measures, including the electrostatic spraying and the hygiene in the cabins to ensure that we minimize the risk as much as possible.

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ron McKinnon

Thank you, Ms. Sidhu. We will go now to Dr. Kitchen.

Dr. Kitchen, please go ahead for five minutes.

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, everybody, for being here.

Mr. Chair, depending on how quickly my answers arrive, I may share my time with Mrs. Jansen.

I will try to point out to Air Canada that there has been a lot of confusion over the directives and advice that have been released by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and you indicated even today there were some issues interprovincially. We know there is no legal obligation for the provinces and territories to provide their health information to the federal government.

I already know my answer to this, but the reality is.... Has your organization experienced a lot of confusion or a little bit of confusion with how you proceed with dealing with the preventative measures when we look at things such as the changing answers we get for wearing masks and taking temperatures, etc.?

2:40 p.m.

Chief Medical Officer, Air Canada

Dr. Jim Chung

I can respond to that.

As I said earlier in a previous response, Mr. Chair, there is no manual for this outbreak. We've been learning as we go along, and the manual is literally being written. The data and the science have evolved over time, to the point that it is strongly supportive of facial coverings to this point now.

As the data and science evolve, there are multiple stakeholders as well as different guidances from various organizations. We do follow that up, as do my colleagues in the other airlines, and try to find best practices based on all these guidances.

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

It would be considered confusing, would that not be correct, with the various answers?

2:40 p.m.

Chief Medical Officer, Air Canada

Dr. Jim Chung

This whole COVID-19 has been somewhat confusing, essentially. Literally, we're on month six, and I remember when it started. I was on a beach somewhere when I got my first notification from BlueDot about this potential SARS-like outbreak in Wuhan.

It has evolved at lightspeed, and everyone has had to adapt. I'm sure WestJet and Air Transat have had to adapt to what feels like lightspeed—

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Thank you, Dr. Chung.

Mr. Mikoch-Gerke, you talked a bit about the standards and the steps that you've done on cleaning, etc. I just want to touch on one aspect of it. When I flew back and forth from Ottawa, I ran into a number of technicians who were saying how clean they keep the airplanes, etc., with the changing of the HEPA filters, etc., and how sanitary they are. I do believe that is the case.

You talked about fogging electrostatically. We recognize that electrostatic fogging is really getting into places where maybe the cleaners can't get into. My question really comes to another step. I realize the research is very new, but I'm just wondering if WestJet has considered ozone technology.

2:40 p.m.

Manager, Aviation Security, WestJet Airlines Ltd.

Jared Mikoch-Gerke

Mr. Chair, I thank the member for the question.

I'm not aware. I don't believe we've actually looked at that technology at this time. Having said that, we've continued to evolve what health measures we do have, and if there's better technology that the epidemiology reflects could be a means of better cleaning our aircraft, that's certainly something we'll look at as we continue to evolve and review our policies around the cleaning of the cabins and other areas.

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Liebman, have you looked at that with Air Transat?

2:40 p.m.

Senior Director, Government and Community Affairs, Air Transat

Howard Liebman

I'm going to ask my colleague Captain Bourdages to weigh in, if you don't mind, sir.

2:40 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Go ahead.

2:40 p.m.

Captain Dave Bourdages Vice-President, In-Flight Service and Customer Experience, Air Transat

Thank you for the question.

As our colleagues from WestJet and Air Canada have mentioned, we're looking at the technology that is available today. We're trying to base our approach on science and what's out there. Electrostatic technology is something that's been proven. We are keeping our eyes and our ears open as to what may come in the future, but we haven't looked specifically at the ozone technology itself.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Thank you very much.

I'm going to shift over to Mrs. Jansen for a quick question.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tamara Jansen Conservative Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Thank you.

I'm going to ask Air Transat.

I have a question from constituents, Paul and Bonnie, who booked a flight to Rome last July. They were supposed to leave in August, and it turns out, of course, that all of that has been turned back as non-refundable. Do I tell them that it's a lack of government support, which you mentioned the U.S. and the EU were giving, why this is being put on the backs of individual Canadians?

2:45 p.m.

Senior Director, Government and Community Affairs, Air Transat

Howard Liebman

Thank you for the question.

Just to clarify, we will be flying from Toronto to Rome as of the end of July, so that's the good news.

More generally, to your question, I want to be very clear. First and foremost, our industry requires our customers, and we as a company put our customers first. Each and every one of them received a full future travel credit because of flights being cancelled due to all these restrictions that the government announced.

2:45 p.m.

Conservative

Tamara Jansen Conservative Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

Unfortunately, they're not able to use them because of another issue.

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Ron McKinnon

Thank you, Mrs. Jansen.

We go now to Mr. Van Bynen.

Mr. Van Bynen, go ahead. You have five minutes.

June 22nd, 2020 / 2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Van Bynen Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses, who are providing us with good insight and perspective into the issues.

My first question is for Air Canada.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Air Canada has worked in close co-operation with Global Affairs Canada to bring Canadians home. Can you share with the committee how many special repatriation flights Air Canada has operated, and how many Canadians were on those flights?

2:45 p.m.

Senior Vice-President, Air Canada Express and Government Relations, Air Canada

Ferio Pugliese

Yes, Mr. Chair. Thank you for the question.

Yes, we actually operated 21 special repatriation flights, and we brought back just over 8,500 Canadians on those flights. In addition, during the pandemic and during the crisis and the taking down and the tightening of border restrictions, we also leveraged our commercial routes that were already in place. When we tabulate it completely, it's roughly 300,000 Canadians who were repatriated back to Canada.

2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Van Bynen Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Thank you.

Dr. Chung, we know that some of the cabin air in an aircraft is recirculated after it's been filtered, so I'm hoping you can elaborate on the ventilation system in the aircraft.

First, how does the ventilation system in an aircraft work when the aircraft is in the air? Can you elaborate on the flow pattern of the air in the aircraft and whether it is more likely to contribute to the spread or whether it is effective in preventing the spread? Is there something that the passengers can do to help the ventilation system, such as perhaps keeping the vents above their seats off? Also, how does this differ when the aircraft is parked and the engines are off in the case of ground delays?

2:45 p.m.

Chief Medical Officer, Air Canada

Dr. Jim Chung

Mr. Chair, thank you for the question. That is a very good question, and it does take a bit of a dissertation, so I apologize for a bit of a lengthy answer here.

In flight, the cabin air typically will be a 50-50 mix of bleed air through the engine and recirculated air through the cabin, in most aircraft. The recirculated air through the cabin goes through the high-efficiency particulate arrestor filter, which, as mentioned earlier, will filter out 99.9% of all bacteria, fungi and viruses, and it does get recirculated into the cabin.

The flow of air within the cabin itself, though, is not from front to back but side to side, essentially, so it circulates in a transverse pattern relative to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft. Hence, what you will hear from public health officials when they are doing notifications is typically that they are asking for two rows, either in front of or behind the index case passenger, for any potential contact tracing on board an aircraft.

On the ground, the air is plugged into an external air-handling unit that gets plugged into the aircraft.