Canadians Are Exploiting The Taxicab Loophole To Avoid Covid Quarantine

Two months ago I wrote that Canada’s hotel quarantine rules had a loophole. Passengers returning to Canada by air had to spend three nights at a government quarantine hotel waiting for Covid-19 test on arrival results, while those who crossed the border by land could quarantine at home.

This meant land crossings were more attractive,

  • Greater freedom and comfort versus being confined to a hotel room
  • Savings of as much as CAD$2000 for room and meals

The loophole was this: Canadians can fly into a U.S. airport near the U.S.-Canada border and rent a car or take a cab. Well, it turns out that’s exactly what’s happening.

Airport transport service, Buffalo Limousine, lost about 70 per cent of its business during COVID-19 pandemic. But the company said its luck changed recently, thanks to Canadian snowbirds returning from U.S. sunbelt states who want to avoid Canada’s hotel quarantine requirement.

“This is a huge, huge shot in the arm for us, this Canadian snowbird travel,” said Carla Boccio, owner of Buffalo Limousine. “It’s a godsend.”

…Since late February, Buffalo Limousine has, on average, transported 50 customers a day across the Canadian border, increasing its lagging business by around 50 per cent, Boccio said.

“I’m more thankful than I could even put into words.”

Expect to pay about $100 to the border plus the cost of being driven home, or get family or friends to drop off your own car to pick up there. A trip from Buffalo to downtown Toronto runs about $300. Americans, however, cannot do this because they aren’t allowed to cross the land border except for essential business.

The ‘taxicab loophole’ is added convenience too given over 100 land borders (as well as places to legally cross the border without going through a checkpoint) yet limited places Canada has allowed for international arrivals.

The hotel quarantine policy has privileged driving over flying, with land crossings from the U.S. to Canada up significantly.

On the other hand the Canadian government is now handing out airline subsidies, and airlines have to refund customers for flights they cancelled. Since the beginning of the pandemic Air Canada had stolen customer money, holding onto payments without delivering transportation in return. And the government backed them up. Now, the government is supporting restoration of some flight service and for refunds.

Ironically there might have been a (weak) case for government support a year ago, arguing that Air Canada might not survive. Now that there’s no question about the carrier’s survival the government’s pocket book opened. The minority government is weak there, though, and wouldn’t seem to want to call an election during lockdowns and lagging vaccinations, but could be forced to – and it’s a nice talking point that they got consumers their money back and helped restore air travel.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. We also have a similar loophole, regarding land vs. air crossings. If one flies into TIJ, there is no requirement for a negative COVID test to get on the plane, and you can walk across to the US and take an uber anywhere you want. If you fly into SAN, you need a negative COVID test.

  2. thanks, Canada, for the helping out the U.S. airline and ground transportation industry.

    really.

  3. Steve is right, I walked across from the Mexican border the other day (legally) with nothing more than a passport check. The government’s rules are nothing but safety theater.

  4. It’s all but impossible to rent one-way from the US to Canada right now. The rental companies typically do allow this, but ever since the car rental shortage hit, all of the major rental companies (save for Alamo in some extremely limited cases) have effectively blocked this type of routing. At AutoSlash we get many requests every day that we have to turn away because there is simply no availability.

  5. I do one better. I’m Canadian. And I can drive people all the way home then back to the USA.

    I have brought plenty of friends this way.

    Seriously helped out us carriers over air Canada.

    Canadians are incredibly pragmatic.

  6. I don’t even think this should be called a loophole, just call it a stupidly-enacted rule that deserves to be exploited. It’s not like it was some one in a million scenario. Land borders are the dominant method of entry.

  7. It looks like the loophole is doing great damage to Canada. For the first time ever Canada has a higher rate of new COVID cases per capita than the U.S., and the trend started right with the return of people traveling to warm places. And the most affected province is Ontario, right across from Buffalo, where hospitals are looking at withholding regular care as COVID-19 fills beds and the ICU.

    So very, very, very sad.

  8. @Jonathan
    it is difficult but not impossible
    a few weeks ago I rented in SEA and returned in YVR
    I am dual citizen living in Canada so for me it is even easier as drove a friend’s car to seattle and then flew to florida, and landed back in seattle and rented the car that I dropped in YVR
    It was a win win as my friend needed the car in the USA but he could not cross by land so he flew
    @Bill is 100 pct right, this is pure BS nad I saw this loophole the day it was enacted so I advised many to do so, I am happy people caught on to this

  9. Used to live in TO and flew out of BUF all the time. Transborder flights have hundreds of dollars in taxes, same as any other international ticket, so you can save a substantial amount by driving across the border and flying a domestic US flight. Since the land border is effectively open to Canadians, not at all surprised that BUF is again being used as TO’s third airport.

  10. What has received no media is that the quarantine hotels should be there for individuals who have no “safe” place to quarantine for 14 days as required on entering Canada. Individuals who have an appropriate place to go to can and should, IMO, refuse to be taken to these hotels. In the first place it is illegal to force people by intimidation or threat of fine to give up their freedom to go to their home. In the second place, those hotels are dreadful by all reports, with incidences of assault and even rape being alleged. Lastly, because there is no law passed by parliament making this mandatory, the courts are throwing out the tickets and the $3000Cdn fine is not being upheld. Please let me be clear, the 14 day quarantine is still required and you can be fined for violating it, but you CAN do it in the comfort of your own home.

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