Without the eTA, you can no longer go to Canada

Recently, French nationals have been denied boarding an aircraft going to Canada since they didn’t have the eTA (Electronic Travel Authorization). A rule recently implemented. They tell their mishap in Juliana.

"We bought our plane tickets in September through an internet travel platform. We arrived at the airport of Juliana two hours and a half before departure and there, we are advised about an eTA," says Pascal. With his partner, they had planned to spend Christmas with friends in Montreal. They were supposed to leave on Thursday, December 22nd, with a Canadian airline. They eventually left on the 25th and will spend New Year's Eve in Quebec.

Between the time when the couple bought their tickets and the day of departure, a new requirement for entry to Canada came into force: "foreign travelers exempt from the visa who take a flight to Canada must obtain an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA). Are exempted among others the citizens of the United States, as well as travelers having a valid Canadian visa", indicates the Canadian Government website. And obviously, Pascal, his partner as well as others who were to travel Thursday, December 22nd, had not been made aware by the travel platform and/or the airline.

The eTA is very simple to obtain. "When we returned home, it took us less than ten minutes to obtain it", says Pascal. The Government of Canada website confirms this: "most eTA applications are approved within minutes following the sending of the request”. All you need to do is to connect to the official website and fill out the form online. A procedure that this couple and other passengers were not able to complete at the Sint Maarten Airport due to a poor Internet connection. And a lack of support from the agents.

"Instead of telling us to go into an area where there is an Internet access and fill out the application online, the person representing the airline was struggling trying to connect to it. Since we didn't know what the request was about, what we had to do and the time it took, we simply stayed there and wait. If we had known that it took only a few minutes, we would have left the airport and went to an area where there is Internet to fill in our application, as we had more than enough time. We arrived two and a half hours before our flight. But nobody informed us. The person in charge didn’t come out of his office to talk to us, or explain to us”, says Pascal, angry at the lack of response from the airline and its agents. "At one point, an employee tried to help us but after a few minutes, she told us that she had to leave," he said.

Furious as well, was a young woman who was going to Mexico via Canada. She did not understand why she had to have an eTA since she was in transit. In fact, the regulation also requires transit passengers to have an electronic travel authorization. But in Juliana, nobody was able to explain this to her. She also had to postpone her departure.

Agents of the airline were not giving advices and also lack compassion for a family. "The employee completed the form and after a while, the parents and their child obtained their eTA. But the authorization was denied to their second child, a little girl of six years old. Then, the agent told them they could leave and asked them if they had a family member who could pick up the six years old little girl at the airport! ", says Pascal, outraged. "The little girl was crying! She was completely lost. Of course, the family didn’t leave without her", he says.

Then, the employees asked the passports to passengers without providing a reason. "They left without telling us why. Then they came back and told us that we were leaving Sunday the 25th," continues Pascal. "I asked at what time and what flight to the agents. But they responded that they did not know. They just told us to be at the airport at 11:50 am”.

Estelle Gasnet