Ontario woman with vaccine medical exemption denied boarding at Pearson airport

Ashley Da Silva of Vaughan wanted to be fully vaccinated but couldn’t for health reasons, but she thought her medical exemption from her doctor would be enough to allow her to board an airplane.

“I got my first dose of the vaccine and I had an allergic reaction to it, so I got an medical exception from my doctor for the second one,” said da Silva.

Da Silva and her boyfriend Liam London are high school sweethearts who had their prom cancelled due to the pandemic, so they decided to book a holiday to Mexico.

Da Silva and London paid a total of $4,310 on their Sunwing vacation package and showed up at Pearson Airport ready to board. Da Silva said she thought her doctor’s note citing her medical exemption would allow her to board the plane.

“I really didn’t really see the problem. I have the exception, I would show it and we will be good to go,” said Da Silva.

But Da Silva was told she wasn’t allowed to board the plane and her boyfriend wouldn’t go on the trip without her.

“It’s $2,000 each. That’s not good. It’s just so disappointing,” said Da Silva.

“Finally we get to go on vacation and we get denied,” London added.

Someone who is unvaccinated may be able to fly with a medical exemption, but there are procedures that must be closely followed and the paperwork must be submitted 30 days in advance of the trip.

Martin Firestone, the President of Travel Secure Inc. said, “the airline has a form you take to your doctor and your doctor completes the reasons why you have the medical exemption. You then submit it to the airline and they need three weeks approval time to get this done.”

When CTV News Toronto reached out to Sunwing a spokesperson said, “with respect to vaccination exemptions, we follow regulations set forth by Transport Canada. Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, and Sunwing Airlines customers seeking exemption requests for upcoming travel must complete our required form and submit the request to our Special Services Department three weeks before their departure date.”

“As the prescribed exemption process was not followed in this customer’s case, and our frontline airport staff are unable to assess individual requests or issue exemptions, the customer’s boarding was unfortunately denied. Should the customer wish to discuss the reason for denied boarding in greater detail, provide feedback on their experience or express their concerns, an online request can be submitted via Sunwingcares.ca and a customer relations representative will be in touch directly.”

According to the federal government, 82 per cent of the Canadian population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, meaning approximately five million Canadians are not able to fly.

The Federal Conservatives have been calling on the Liberal government in Ottawa to revert to pre-pandemic rules and service levels for travel and lift the requirement that travellers must be vaccinated.

Melissa Lantsman, the Conservative Transport Critic and MP for Thornhill told CTV News Toronto, “we still have about five million Canadians who can’t travel. We are outliers when it comes to the international community.”

The Conservatives put forward a motion in the House of Commons today to return to pre-pandemic travel rules and regulations, which would also allow Canadians to fly within Canada, but it was defeated.

“It seems vindictive. It seems to be punishing a certain number of Canadians who don’t agree with the government,” said Lantsman.

In many other countries like the United States, passengers who are unvaccinated are allowed to fly domestically, such as from New York to Chicago. But in Canada you are not allowed to fly from Calgary to Toronto if you’re unvaccinated unless you have a medical exemption and 30 days notice.

Da Silva and London were hoping to get a travel credit for their trip, but they won’t and lost the $4,310 they paid for their trip.

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