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WestJet announces plans to cut equivalent of 1,000 jobs, reduce flights

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CALGARY —
Citing “volatile demand” and “instability in the face of continuing federal government travel advisories and restrictions,” Calgary-based WestJet has announced plans to slash jobs and its flight schedule.

Airline officials say approximately 30 per cent of its current flight schedule for February and March will be removed, the resulting scheudle will be a decline of nearly 80 per cent compared to the average for this time period in previous years.

Ed Sims, president and CEO of WestJet, says the airline has experienced “significant reductions in new booking and unprecedented cancellations” following the federal government’s announcement of inbound testing as well as the government’s continuation of a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for travellers.

“The entire travel industry and its customers are again on the receiving end of incoherent and inconsistent government policy,” said Sims in a statement released Friday.

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“We have advocated over the past 10 months for a coordinated 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 says the new policy left the airline with no other option then to place a large number of employees on leave, while impacting the pay of others. WestJet plans to introduce furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reductions to the hours of workers.

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“This is a cruel outcome for loyal and hardworking staff who have been diligently working through the pandemic.”

WestJet says it will soon operate at a rate of approximately 150 daily departures, returning to levels last seen by the airline in the spring of 2001.

The airline is suspending 11 routes including:

  • Calgary – Las Vegas
  • Calgary – Orlando
  • Edmonton – Phoenix
  • Edmonton – Cancun
  • Edmonton – Puerto Vallarta
  • Vancouver – Los Angeles
  • Vancouver – Palm Springs
  • Vancouver – Phoenix
  • Vancouver – Cabo
  • Vancouver – Cancun
  • Vancouver – Puerto Vallarta

This is a developing story. It will be updated throughout the morning.

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