West Jet Cutting Flights, To Lay Off 1,000 Workers

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A West Jet aircraft flying in Northern Canada. Pic: West Jet.å

Ottawa: WestJet, Canada’s second-largest airline, has announced that it would lay off 1,000 people and cut flights due to the official travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“Immediately following the federal government’s inbound testing announcement on December 31, 2020, and with the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, we saw significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations,” WestJet CEO Ed Sims said in a statement on Friday.

“The entire travel industry and its customers are again on the receiving end of incoherent and inconsistent government policy We have advocated over the past 10 months for a co-ordinated testing regime on Canadian soil, but this hasty new measure is causing Canadian travellers unnecessary stress and confusion and may make travel unaffordable, unfeasible and inaccessible for Canadians for years to come,” Sims added.

“As we continue to face volatile demand and instability, we’re removing 30 per cent of planned February and March flights, and regrettably standing down the equivalent of 1,000 employees,” the company said in another statement on Twitter.

The job cuts will be made across the company’s network in a combination of temporary layoffs, furloughs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours. Seat capacity will be reduced in February and March by 30 per cent, or by more than 80 per cent from the same period in 2020.

In addition, the airline will reduce domestic frequencies by 160 departures as evolving advisories, travel restrictions and guidance continue to negatively impact demand trends.

On Thursday, the Canadian government made it mandatory for anyone aged five and older flying into the country to show proof of a negative Covid19 test taken in the previous 72 or 96 hours, depending on the country.

The Canadian airline industry opposed the official order and said it would create confusion at departure gates and should be accompanied by relaxed quarantine requirements.

“Regrettably, this new policy leaves us with no other option but to again place a large number of our employees on leave, while impacting the pay of others,” Sims added. The airline will now operate about 150 daily departures.

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