Canada’s WestJet has blamed government travel advisories and restrictions for a decision to slash its schedule by 30 percent and cut the equivalent of 1000 jobs.
The airline announced it would remove the capacity in February and March, resulting in an 80 percent year-on-year reduction. International capacity will be down by 93 percent.
The move will see 230 weekly departures eliminated, including 160 domestic departures, and jobs reduced by a combination of furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leave and reduced hours.
The airline will return to 150 daily departures, a level not seen since June 2001.
Routes to be suspended are 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, Calgary-Orlando.
There will also be a seasonal suspension of 13 international and transborder destinations including London Gatwick, Tampa and destinations in the Caribbean.
“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,” said WestJet chief executive Ed Sims,
“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 travelers unnecessary stress and confusion and may make travel unaffordable, unfeasible and inaccessible for Canadians for years to come.”
Canada, New Zealand and Australia recently joined other countries in requiring pre-flight testing in addition to quarantine.
The new Canadian protocol began January 7 and requires travelers to Canada who are five years and older to prove they have taken a PCR test and received a negative result within 72 hours of boarding a plane.
The Canadian government is also increasing surveillance efforts to ensure travelers complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine period.
The increasing restrictions rebuff an airline lobbying effort to get quarantine restrictions replaced by a global testing regime.