Headline News By Alicja Siekierska 76 Views

WestJet blames Ottawa as it cuts capacity, reduces staff by 1,000

WestJet Airlines says the federal government’s “incoherent and inconsistent” COVID-19 testing policies have forced it to cut capacity and reduce its staff by 1,000.

The Calgary-based airline said in a statement Friday that it “continues to face volatile demand and instability in the face of continuing federal government travel advisories and restrictions.”

The airline will remove 30 per cent of its current capacity from its schedule in February and March, representing an overall reduction of 80 per cent compared to the same time last year.

As a result of the capacity cuts, WestJet said approximately 1,000 employees will be either furloughed, temporarily laid off, put on unpaid leave or see their hours reduced. A hiring freeze will also be put in place.

The cuts come two days after the federal government issued an interim order requiring all travellers coming to Canada to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72-hours of departure, a move that was initially announced last month.

“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," WestJet CEO Ed Sims said in a statement, calling Ottawa’s policy “incoherent and inconsistent.”

"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.”