This year’s Christmas/New Years Leave Travel Program will look different and slightly more restrictive this year due to COVID-19.
Major (Maj) Arleta Jurek says, “There are several measures in place, and they are very similar if not even more restrictive than what you see in industry and civil aviation. We’re talking about masks on board, in terminals, and passengers are being offered wipes to sanitize as they come in.”
She says every provincial and federal guideline is being adhered to as much as possible, especially for non-duty passengers.
This program has been running for 15 years.
The Special Christmas/New Years Leave Travel Program provides Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel and their immediate family the opportunity to be reunited during the holiday period. The program flights will commence on December 13 and 20 and conclude on Jan 8, 2021. Travel under this program is not a financial entitlement and is considered non-duty travel.
“Voluntary members are posted all across Canada, sometimes not by choice in a location away from their family. So this is a way for the Canadian Forces to give back to those families,” says Jurek.
Public health measures were removed from the CANFORGEN because they’re changing every week. Jurek explained, “We decided to do is and push all the passengers and applicants towards our website. That’s where we will put the latest safety measures that are to be adhered to.”
Personnel should note that in the event flights are cancelled, rerouted, or delayed, the member would be financially responsible for any travel and/or hotel costs incurred.
Participants in this year’s program are advised that due to the existing and evolving responses to the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada, the 2020-21 special Christmas-New Year’s leave travel program may be significantly affected.
Jurek says, “The biggest thing to know is that although we are taking applications for this year, the program can still be cancelled. If the situation develops and a second wave is upon us, or if the federal guidelines restrict air travel further, then the CAF will cancel the program.”
In order to comply with federal and or provincial health measures in place, it may not be possible to move non-duty passengers to certain locations.
A final decision on the program’s execution and composition will be made on November 18, 2020.
All personnel applying for travel under this program are therefore advised that, should it be required, the program may be significantly reduced in scale or cancelled in its entirety with little or no advance notification. Should these measures be required, confirmed reservations may be cancelled for affected locations without alternate booking offers.
Individual notifications will be sent to affected passengers as soon as possible, and an updated flight schedule will be made available on the Strategic Joint Staff (SJS) Strategic J4 Transportation (Strat J4 Tn) website.
Passengers are also advised that additional COVID-19 screening and in-flight protocols will be in effect for all flights being conducted in support of this program. These precautions will serve to provide a measured response to the existing degree of threat to our members, their families, and the Canadian community at large.
Revised information pertaining to COVID-19 safety measures will be made available through the SJS Strat J4 Tn website. Last-minute amendments are being sent out as required through individual notifications to passengers holding confirmed reservations.
Application for seats under the subject program will be by categories (Cat) of travel, which in turn determine booking precedence.
Categories of travel are:
a. CAT 01.
(1) Regular Force-Class B and Class C reserve force personnel and military personnel of USA, NATO and Commonwealth Forces on exchange with the CAF that are separated from their married-common law partner or dependents due to service reasons and not entitled to duty travel as recorded on their DND 2587 (next of kin (NOK) identification form) held in the unit orderly room.
(2) Single Regular Force-Class B and Class C reserve force military personnel and military personnel of USA, NATO, and Commonwealth Forces on exchange with the CAF travelling to visit their NOK IAW Ref c and d.
(3) Married, common law and single military personnel travelling to reunite with family will be considered equally; with priority going to the earliest date and time an application was received at the National Passenger Service Centre (NPSC).
b. Cat 02.
(1) All other CAF military personnel and eligible dependents, IAW Ref d, who are entitled to leave travel on non-duty basis IAW Ref b and who do not already hold a confirmed Cat 01 seat.
(2) All requests will be considered equally, with priority going to the earliest date and time an application was received at NPSC.
c. Space available travel.
(1) Active members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, not including spouse or dependents.
(2) Class A reservists with two years of qualifying service.
(3) Military personnel of USA, NATO and Commonwealth Forces, including accompanying dependents, on exchange with the CAF.