Travel way down, but there are still some people going abroad, says Saskatoon travel agent

While the federal government is advising Canadian citizens to avoid all non-essential travel, there are still a few people flying across Canada and abroad.

It's easier for Canadians to get into the U.S. than for Americans to get into Canada, says travel specialist

If you are flying these days there are far fewer flights to choose from, says Saskatoon Uniglobe travel agent Jamie Milton. (Eric Foss/CBC)

While the federal government is advising Canadian citizens to avoid all non-essential travel, there are still a few people flying across Canada and abroad, says one Saskatoon travel agent.

"Over the last six months, demand has been down 80 to 90 per cent," says Jamie Milton, who is with the Saskatoon travel agency Uniglobe.

"It is quite clear the majority of people are listening to the government restrictions and staying home. But we are seeing a small amount of uptick in travel as time goes on."

Milton said most of the flights she's booking for people are for business, or for people who need to see their families, which can be a struggle.

"Maybe they have an elderly parent who needs compassionate care, a death in the family or a wedding," Milton told Saskatoon Morning host Leisha Grebinski.

For example, Milton had a client who needed to get home to Chile for a family emergency. It was more than four weeks before they could get him a flight home.

"It's a very difficult time, particularly internationally, for people to be able to travel if they need to."

Some people are travelling for health reasons, like a doctor's appointment, surgery or for their mental health.

"A lot of people are finding that this pandemic is difficult mentally and they are finding it very helpful to be able to go and visit friends or the support system that they need during this time," said Milton.

She is also beginning to see snowbirds heading to the U.S. for the winter.

"They will take that chance and spend the winter."

It's easier for Canadians to get into the U.S. than it is for Americans to get into Canada, she said.

"I think the Canadian Customs is a lot more stringent on what that non-essential travel means, and making sure Americans coming into Canada have a very valid reason to do so," Milton said. 

"But we aren't finding that, particularly with people flying into the United States. They may be asked a few questions, but typically they are allowed to fly there."

If you do choose to travel, whether inside or outside of the country, Milton said you need to keep checking to see if your itinerary has changed, or new restrictions have been put in place since the time you booked your travel.

"You may need to get a test upon arrival, a temperature check — there's all kinds of different restrictions.… And some countries are simply still closed to travel," she said.

The government of Canada is advising Canadian citizens to avoid all non-essential travel outside of Canada until further notice to limit the spread of COVID-19. (Nam Y. Huh/The Associated Press)

There have also been changes to flight schedules as demand goes up and down, Milton added.

"Sometimes the flights will change in time, or they'll get cancelled or moved to a different day or amalgamated with another flight. So it is really important to really be on top of that before you go."

Enlisting a professional can help navigate through all the changes, she said. And if you have to fly, Milton recommends booking as far in advance as possible.

"The flights are really restricted," she said. "We used to have plenty of options and plenty of space and you could book last-minute. Because the flights are so limited and booked up, the prices are jumping for last-minute bookings."

Milton said she recently flew on business and was impressed with the cleanliness and the procedures that are in place at the airports, the aircraft and hotels. 

"I think they are working exceptionally hard to make the travelling experience as safe as possible right now."

With files from Saskatoon Morning


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