Pittsburghers can once again fly nonstop to the Great White North.
On Tuesday, Air Canada resumed its nonstop service between Pittsburgh International Airport and Toronto Pearson International Airport with a daily flight, marking the first time Pittsburgh and Canada have been linked together with passenger service since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the border in March 2020.
Air Canada’s return to Pittsburgh is a part of the airline’s plan to reconnect Canada and the U.S. The airline will add 55 routes and 34 destinations, totaling up to 220 daily flights between the two countries.
In July, the Canadian government announced that it would re-open its borders to vaccinated American travelers thanks to a decline in COVID-19 cases and an increase in Canada’s vaccination rates. For airlines, the reopening of the border is welcome news as the global pandemic has kept travel between the two countries largely restricted for more than a year.
The easing of travel restrictions “… is an important step based on science, and we are very pleased to rebuild our Canada-U.S. network,” said Mark Galardo, senior vice president, Network Planning and Revenue Management at Air Canada in a press release. “Canada and the United States share close ties and restoring air connectivity will contribute to both countries’ economic recovery.”
The re-opening of the Canada-U.S. border includes restrictions and is expected to be dependent on the stability of case counts.
Air Canada’s daily flight departs PIT mid-morning and arrives in Toronto by noon. (Photo by Evan Dougherty)
Effective Aug. 9, vaccinated American citizens and permanent residents will be permitted to enter Canada for non-essential travel. Travelers will be required to show proof of vaccination with a final dose received no sooner than 14 days before entering. In addition, travelers are required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result 72 hours prior to arrival.
For Canadian citizens returning to Canada, those vaccinated no longer need to follow a mandatory 14-day quarantine, as of July 5. Travelers will also not have to quarantine for three days in government-approved hotels following arrival by plane into the country.
“With rising vaccination rates and fewer cases in Canada, we can begin to safely ease border measures,” Canada’s Minister of Health Patty Hajdu said in a statement. “A gradual approach to reopening will allow our health authorities to monitor the COVID-19 situation here and abroad. Canadians have worked hard and sacrificed for each other, and because of that work, we can take these next steps safely.”
International travel returning slowly
Canada joins a list of countries that have started to welcome back U.S. visitors this summer. Many European Union members, such as Greece, France and the Netherlands, re-opened their borders to international tourists. The United Kingdom also plans to lift its restrictions on inbound vaccinated U.S. travelers on Aug. 2.
However, the U.S. does not plan on re-opening its border to foreign visitors abroad, citing a rise in delta variant cases. Recently, the federal government extended the ban for visitors from Canada and Mexico to Aug. 21.
As a result, demand for international travel is expected to remain at depressed levels. According to the industry group Airlines for America, international demand is down 40 percent versus pre-pandemic levels, while flights are down 36 percent.
Domestic travel, meanwhile, has surged with passenger levels now down just 14 percent and flights down 17 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels, as of July 31. Nationwide, TSA is regularly seeing over 2 million passengers passing through airport checkpoints.
The resumption of Toronto on Air Canada is one of several new and resuming flights slated to start this month at PIT. Ultra-low cost carrier Allegiant Air will start nonstop flights to Rapid City, S.D., on Friday and twice-weekly service to Phoenix/Mesa, Ariz. on Aug. 19. American Airlines, meanwhile, will resume daily, nonstop flights to its Phoenix/Sky Harbor hub on Aug. 18.
PIT will also see more nonstops to business-oriented destinations this fall as business travel is expected to see a steady rebound. United Airlines will bring back daily flights to San Francisco on Sept. 8, while regional carrier Contour Airlines will enter the Pittsburgh market with service to Indianapolis and Milwaukee on Oct. 12.
Additionally, Allegiant will begin year-round service to Melbourne, Fla. on Nov. 11 that will operate twice a week. Southwest Airlines, meanwhile, will begin weekly flights to Austin, Texas, and Miami in late November for the holiday travel period. In addition, Delta Air Lines is slated to resume its flights to Salt Lake City on Dec. 18.