WestJet Slashes Capacity and Will Stand Down 1,000 Employees Due to Government Testing Regime
Due to ongoing Canadian Federal Government travel advisories and restrictions, WestJet will cut capacity and stand down the equivalent of 1,000 employees across the Group through furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours.
On Friday (January 8, 2021), WestJet announced that they will slash capacity and stand down the equivalent of 1,000 employees due to ongoing travel advisories and restrictions by the Canadian Federal Government. The company will reduce their workforce through a combination of furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours, while simultaneously implementing a hiring freeze. WestJet will remove approximately 30 percent of their planned capacity for February and March from their schedule, resulting in a year-over-year reduction of over 80 percent. The carrier will also cut frequencies by more than 230 weekly departures, including 160 domestic flights, as evolving advisories and travel restrictions continue to negatively impact demand. In Friday’s announcement, WestJet’s President and CEO, Ed Sims, said,
“Immediately following the federal government's inbound testing announcement on December 31, and with the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, we saw significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations. 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 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. 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. This is a cruel outcome for loyal and hardworking staff who have been diligently working through the pandemic.”
WestJet’s international capacity will be reduced year-over-year by 93 percent, as the airline will operate only five daily departures compared to 100 during the same period last year. The carrier is also suspending 11 routes including Edmonton-Cancun, Edmonton- Puerto Vallarta, Edmonton-Phoenix, Vancouver-Cancun, Vancouver-Phoenix, Vancouver-Puerto Vallarta, Vancouver-Cabo, Vancouver-Los Angeles, Vancouver-Palm Springs, Calgary-Las Vegas, and Calgary-Orlando. Additionally, WestJet will suspend service to 13 seasonal international and transborder destinations including Antigua, Aruba, Bonaire, Huatulco, London-Gatwick, Mazatlán, Nassau, Port of Spain, San Jose (Costa Rica), Tampa and Turks & Caicos. With the announced capacity cuts, WestJet will operate around 150 daily departures, a level not seen since 2001.
Prior to the Global COVID-19 pandemic, WestJet and subsidiary regional airlines, WestJet Encore and WestJet Link, offered scheduled service to over 110 destinations across North America, Central America, the Caribbean and Europe. WestJet has implemented over 20 extra health and safety protocols for the protection of guests and WestJetters. The airline has taken a science-based approach to evaluate operational policies for the health and wellbeing of guests using the latest research from internal and third-party experts including the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia. During these unprecedented times, the carrier has maintained their rating by Cirium as one of the top ten airlines for on-time performance in North America.