Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is reportedly preparing to ease border restrictions for fully vaccinated travelers.

According to Reuters.com, Trudeau and other health officials within the Canadian government are planning to ease the current 14-day isolation period for tourists who have received two COVID-19 vaccine doses.

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Reopening from COVID-19

The updated coronavirus restrictions are expected to be announced in the coming days, with travelers entering Canada still being required to test negative before arrival and possibly quarantine for a shorter period of time.

Politico reported Monday that Canada was reportedly considering a June 22 start date to begin loosening restrictions at the U.S. border, as long as the country’s vaccination campaign stays on its current trajectory.

On Monday, Trudeau said Canada is looking at how it could start welcoming international visitors as the country’s COVID-19 situation continues to improve. The Prime Minister said the government has to keep Canadians safe, but also help the nation’s battered tourism and travel industry.

“We’re not going to get ahead of ourselves,” Trudeau said. “We are looking at how we’re going to start welcoming up tourists in a phased way as the numbers come down in Canada, as the numbers start to come down in the United States and elsewhere around the world.”

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  • Southwest Airlines is turning to digital tools to recruit the best candidates, the WSJ reported.
  • Chatbots and other AI tools can make for a quicker hiring process compared with a human.
  • The move comes as demand increases and the labor market becomes more competitive.

Southwest Airlines is using digital job recruiting tools, such as chatbots, to help find the best recruits, according to a Wall Street Journal report on Monday.

The airline hopes digital tools will speed up the hiring process as air travel makes a comeback more than one year after the pandemic struck, Greg Muccio, Southwest’s director of talent acquisition, told the Journal.
“The labor market is probably as tough as I’ve ever seen it, and so we’ve got to be able to move with speed, and that’s where all these tools come into play,” said Muccio.
In the past, it’s taken Southwest up to 45 days to offer a candidate a job after posting it, Muccio said. Digital recruiting tools can help to cut that time in half, he said.

Phenom People Inc. is the chatbot platform which Southwest uses to identify and notify the best candidates for a job, the Journal reported.

Since the company started using it last year, the chatbot has interacted with 1.2 million applicants which would have taken staff between 18,000 and 92,000 hours to complete, Muccio said.

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The chatbot can answer work-related questions and ask applicants questions on work eligibility and pay rates, the Journal reported. It can also score candidates on their skills and experience, helping Southwest find the most suitable person for the job, Phenom Chief Executive Mahe Bayireddi told the Journal.

Although Muccio said he preferred face-to-face interaction for that particular part of the hiring process.
Currently, the airline has 2,000 job openings, including flight attendants and airport operation staff, Muccio told the Journal.

Southwest was close to furloughing nearly 7,000 employees in December after negotiations to temporarily introduce pay cuts fell through. Muccio confirmed to the Journal that the company didn’t end up furloughing or laying off any staff during the pandemic.

After cutting tens of thousands of jobs, other major US airlines, including American, Delta, and United have all announced they would be going on a hiring binge as the travel industry hopes for a post-pandemic resurgence.

Happy Friday and welcome to Overnight Defense. I’m Rebecca Kheel, and here’s your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. CLICK HERE to subscribe to the newsletter.

THE TOPLINE: Former Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite was in the job for just eight months during the Trump administration, but reportedly spent about $2.4 million on air travel for 22 trips.

USA TODAY reported that Braithwaite, who was sworn in last May and resigned when President BidenJoe BidenAtlanta mayor won’t run for reelection South Carolina governor to end pandemic unemployment benefits in June Airplane pollution set to soar with post-pandemic travel boom MORE took office on January 21, traveled to more foreign and domestic locations than any other senior Pentagon civilian amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

By comparison: Other service secretaries took fewer trips in the same period, with then-Army Secretary Ryan McCarthyRyan McCarthyArmy report confirms Vanessa Guillén was sexually harassed before her death Pence pleaded with military officials to ‘clear the Capitol’ on Jan. 6: AP Alarming threat prompts early exit, underscoring security fears MORE embarking on 17 trips that cost roughly $900,000 and then-Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett traveling to 19 destinations for a total $1.6 million, according to spokespeople from each service.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark MilleyMark MilleyOvernight Defense: US may keep training Afghan forces in other countries | Defense chief tight-lipped on sexual assault decision | ‘Swift’ return to Iran deal possible, US says US adds 12 fighter jets to protect Afghanistan withdrawal McConnell: Taliban could take over Afghanistan by ‘the end of the year’ MORE, meanwhile, took four trips in that time frame, and then-Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperCourt declines to dismiss Amazon challenge against JEDI decision Inspector general chose not to investigate Secret Service in clearing of Lafayette Square: report The paradox of US-India relations MORE and his successor, acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, took a combined 15 trips.

Where did he go?: Among Braithwaite’s trips was a $232,000 excursion in January to the South Pacific’s Wake Island to record a farewell message to the Navy and Marine Corps.

The island is essentially a refueling stop and emergency landing strip thousands of miles from Hawaii where no sailors or Marines are stationed, Navy spokesman Capt. Jereal Dorsey told the outlet.

Braithwaite also flew to Norway, Italy, Greece, Japan and India, as well as several trips to Hawaii and a more than $24,000 flight to attend the Army-Navy football game with his family.

Braithwaite’s response: Braithwaite defended his travels in a statement to USA Today, claiming they were necessary to strengthen the Navy after recent crises, likely alluding to the scandal surrounding the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.

“I am extremely proud of the record of accomplishments of Our Sailors and Marines during my tenure as Secretary, especially following such a tumultuous chapter in the Navy’s recent history of crisis following crisis as compared to our other

The momentum surrounding travel bubbles continues to build. Buoyed by finally sealing a deal with Singapore, Hong Kong is reportedly looking south for its next travel bubbles. On the Hong Kong Government’s wish list are travel bubbles with Australia and New Zealand.

Hong-Kong-Australia-Travel-Bubble
Hong Kong reportedly wants to talk about a travel bubble with Australia & New Zealand. Photo: Hong Kong Airport

Getting travel bubbles up and running remains a big ask

According to a report in Executive Traveller, the Hong Kong Government is eyeing quarantine-free travel with Australia and New Zealand. This follows the news of the on-again, off-again travel bubble between Hong Kong and Singapore being back on again from late May.

It also follows a travel bubble commencing between Australia and New Zealand earlier in April. So far, that travel bubble has been relatively trouble-free. That lack of trouble may be giving governments watching its progress some encouragement to start walking the travel bubble talk.

The Hong Kong Government did not provide a timeline for any travel bubble with Australia or New Zealand. The Government also indicated that inter-governmental talks on the subject were yet to begin. But the Hong Kong Government was reportedly keen to start those talks.

It is an interesting idea that many will welcome, but the lack of clarity indicates any travel bubble with Hong Kong will not happen in the immediate term. However, Australia is in discussions with the Singaporean Government about a travel bubble between the respective countries. That raises a possible tantalizing down-the-track scenario – a quarantine-free travel circle between Hong Kong-New Zealand-Australia-Singapore-Hong Kong.

But given all four governments are extremely skittish about who they let in, and negotiating a two-way travel bubble is proving a time-consuming ordeal, getting four countries, even friendly ones, to co-operate is a big ask.

Hong-Kong-Australia-Travel-Bubble
For all the talk about travel bubbles, not many are happening. Photo: Hong Kong Airport

Airlines would welcome a travel bubble

However, for the airlines that fly the routes between these countries – Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air New Zealand, and Qantas, it would be a big step forward.

The two Asian airlines usually have big footprints in Australia and New Zealand, flying to multiple airports in both countries. For a while, Singapore Airlines even flew to Wellington. Both airlines have stood out from the pack during the last 12 months, maintaining flights down to Australia and New Zealand, albeit on a scaled-back basis.

For Qantas and Air New Zealand, flights to Singapore and Hong Kong are normally a big part of their international operations. Both Singapore and Hong Kong are key hubs in Asia and allow for easy connections with partner oneworld and Star Alliance airlines.

In one of the last months of normal operations, December 2019, Air New Zealand carried 118,000 passengers in and out of Asia. That month, there was an average passenger load factor of 86.5% on those flights.

Hong-Kong-Australia-Travel-Bubble
Airlines without domestic networks stand to be big winners from any travel bubble. Photo: Hong