MONTREAL -- With almost 1,800 new cases of COVID-19 in Quebec Friday and hospitalizations climbing to 'critical' levels, many Quebecers are ignoring travel warnings and heading south.

Air Canada employees at Trudeau International Airport told CTV News that they could not believe the huge lineups and lack of physical distancing as travellers readied themselves for what appeared to be largely non-essential travel to beach destinations.

While employees said they asked travellers to keep the two-metre distancing, many refused. Long check-in lines with hundreds of people in them -- many not physically distancing -- could be seen.

The only airline undergoing rapid COVID-19 testing is Air France, though workers are taking temperatures upon entry into the airport.

Travel agent Christine Latremoille said bookings have increased in the past few weeks, with customers telling her if they can’t see family, they want to go somewhere where the rules aren’t as strict.

“The destinations that are most popular are by virtue of the fact that they have the most flights – it would be Cancun. We’re seeing a lot of traffic to Costa Rica and the Dominican [Republic] but Cancun has three flights a day most days, so that’s where the majority of bookings are going for now. And because Mexico doesn’t have any pre-COVID testing requirements – not that people want to avoid testing but the timing can be a logistical nightmare – so Cancun is pretty much at the top of the list,” she said.

Airport officials say though it appears busy, it’s still far from normal levels of travel. Usually on the Friday before Christmas there are 62,000 travellers going in and out of Trudeau airport, but this Friday there have been 12,000