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Loophole lets Canadian snowbirds fly into U.S.

Canadian leisure travelers seeking to cross the closed U.S. border have found a loophole large enough to fly a plane through. All they need is a ticket.

Measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus closed the border back in March, with one exception. Canadian citizens arriving by air are being admitted, without quarantine restrictions, although they may be denied entry if they visited certain countries, including most of Europe, within the previous 14 days.

Otherwise, they’re free to enter.

Logistics companies fly customers into Plattsburgh International Airport, while the companies drive their cars or motor homes across the border to the airport. Transporting the vehicles counts as commercial traffic, which continues to be permitted.

“It is going very smoothly and safely, with individuals cleared by Customs quickly and in their vehicles heading straight for Florida,” said Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce in Plattsburgh.

This loophole has been known to many Canadians, who have taken advantage of it to head to Florida and other southern destinations as winter approaches. The Canadian government so far hasn’t offered similar privileges to U.S. citizens, but then, the coronavirus affects a much larger proportion of Americans.

One company, Transport KMC, will truck your recreational vehicle from St. Hubert airport in Quebec to Plattsburgh International. Meanwhile, you’ll board a nine-passenger prop plane for a 12-minute flight to Plattsburgh, where you’ll be cleared by customs and immigration at the airport.

Total cost: $1,000 to transport your motor home, and $500 in air fare per passenger. Pets are also permitted. The company makes four round-trip flights a day, seven days a week.

Once over the border, travelers face all the same restrictions that travelers from other U.S. states would face. They’re advised not to spend more than 24 hours in New York. Otherwise, they face quarantine restrictions and must test negative for COVID-19. And they must complete the state Health Department’s contact form.

“It’s completely legal,” a spokesman for Transport KMC, who declined to give his name, told the Times Union.

Canadian media have reported extensively on the border services. One Canadian couple, who used Transport KMC, told television network CBC that they were pleased to be able to head south.

“Finally, we’re going,” said Bernard Loiselle, 57, when the CBC interviewed them outside Albany. “The weather in Quebec was getting cold.”

Not everyone’s happy that Canadians are heading south, including their own government.

“People are safest when they stay at home,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a news conference reported by the CBC.

Meanwhile, most U.S. citizens have no choice. While Canada has allowed some Americans with close family members north of the border to reunited, for the vast majority Canada remains off-limits, as do most European and Asian countries.

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