Canadian snowbirds landing in U.S. border towns to avoid quarantine hotels
TORONTO -- With warmer weather approaching, snowbirds are flocking back to Canada and some of them are finding ways to avoid spending three days in a government-mandated quarantine hotel.
Business is booming for car services in American border towns where Canadian snowbirds are arriving to be driven across the border to their front doors.
“Triple, probably quadruple the amount of calls, it’s crazy. The phones are ringing off the hook,” Tony Moore, owner and president of Buffalo Black Car Service in Buffalo, N.Y., told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Monday.
“We’re taking people straight to Toronto, right to their house,” he added.
He said that Canadians coming through aren’t happy about the restrictions on people flying into the country.
“They told us they're not really happy with it, they've heard horror stories about staying at the hotel,” he said. “They’d definitely rather pay the price of US$350 for us to take them up there.”
As for his drivers, most of them have been vaccinated as essential workers and are regularly tested, so they’re not too worried about driving Canadians home.
“They wear masks the whole time, and we also have purchased very expensive, nice partitions to put up between the passengers and the driver,” he said.
All in all it’s about a five-hour round trip for his drivers who, once in Canada, won’t step out of their vehicles.
“We have to have a full tank of gas, that way the driver doesn't have to stop anywhere. They go directly from the airport in Buffalo, directly to the border,” said Moore. “We test the clients in the backseat, and then take them, the driver never gets out of their car, directly to their home.”
Once home in Canada, passengers are to get their own bags from the car so the driver can remain in the vehicle the entire duration of the trip, he added.
He said that a lot of the Canadians using his service aren’t happy with the way the pandemic is being handled in Canada.
“They’re complaining a lot about the leadership, or the lack of leadership in Canada,” he said. “They’re not happy with that.”
For the Canadians who opt to take the long way home aren’t necessarily doing it to skip out on the hotel bill.
“Cost is less a factor than exposure to germs in an enclosed hotel environment,” Laura Lawrence told CTVNews.ca in an email.
Lawrence and her husband have spent the last four months in the Turks and Caicos Islands, and trying to get back to Canada hasn’t been a simple task. They’ve already spent $1,800 on a room at a quarantine hotel in Toronto before changing their plans.
“We decided to rebook our flight, direct to Buffalo and enter Canada by car - thus losing money on our booked - non-refundable hotel,” she added.
Lawrence said both she and her husband were fully vaccinated in Turks and Caicos.
Even flying into Buffalo and booking a car service hasn’t simplified their travel plans. After landing in the U.S., they will have to have another PCR test and await results before taking a car service home.
“So in brief we will need to stay overnight in Buffalo while having taken another COVID test in a Buffalo Niagara International Airport Kiosk centre, wait 24 hours for the test results and then take the car service over the border,” she said.
For the Lawrences, this is still preferable to a stay in a quarantine hotel, where they worry COVID-19 might spread.
While there haven’t been reports of this happening in any Canadian quarantine hotels, one such facility in Australia had a B.1.1.7 variant outbreak earlier this year.