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Transport Canada has levied the first two fines on people refusing to wear masks on airplanes

A pilot taxis a WestJet Boeing 737-700 plane to a gate after arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday, Feb.

3, 2014. The WestJet Group is implementing a strict new policy to ensure passengers wear masks on flights, including the possibility of being denied travel for a year if they do not comply.

The Canadian Press

Two air travellers are facing £1,000 fines after refusing to wear masks aboard WestJet flights.

The penalties are the first two imposed by Transport Canada under new laws aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19, the federal government said Friday.

"In both incidents, the individuals were directed repeatedly by the air crew to wear their face coverings during the flights and in both cases, the individuals refused," the federal aviation regulator said in a statement. "All travelers must also comply with any instructions given by a gate agent or a crew member with respect to wearing a face covering."

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The unnamed air travellers were on separate flights - on June 14 to Waterloo, Ont., from Calgary and on July 7 to Calgary from Vancouver.

The federal government issued an interim order in April requiring air passengers to wear a face covering during flights and in airport terminals. Exceptions include while eating, drinking, taking medicine and staying more than two metres from another person.

On Sept.

1 WestJet Airlines Ltd. began implementing a "zero tolerance" policy for passengers who refuse to wear a face covering by denying them boarding or returning them to the gate to be ejected. Offenders will then be barred from flights operated by WestJet and its affiliates for 12 months.

"Travellers must understand if they choose to not wear a mask, they are choosing not to fly our airlines," WestJet said in a statement, adding that the "vast majority" of passengers comply with the mask requirements.

The move was lauded by the unions representing Calgary-based WestJet's pilots and flight attendants. "For a safe and sustainable recovery from the impacts of COVID-19, all sectors of the aviation industry and government must work together to find practical solutions," said Tim Perry, the Canadian president of the Air Line Pilots Association. "Taking steps like this will instill increased passenger confidence and keep those flying safer than before."

Amid a collapse in demand for air travel, airlines around the world are trying to assure people it is safe to fly. Masks, scaled-back in-flight services, contactless check-ins and heightened plane sanitization are some of the steps they are taking.

WestJet and Air Canada are working with airport authorities in Vancouver and Toronto, respectively, on a COVID-19 test for customers, similar to those in place elsewhere.

However, quarantines and closed borders have made international travel difficult if not impossible, even for people who want to fly.

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