WestJet will be cancelling more than 4,000 domestic flights weekly through May as the COVID-19 crisis continues to impact the aviation industry.
The company says it is removing some 600 daily flights from its schedule between May 5th and June 4th due to “significantly reduced guest demand” during the pandemic. That amounts to around 18,000 trips in total.
"While some city pairings have been temporarily removed, we continue to serve the 38 Canadian airports to which we currently operate, ensuring that those with essential travel requirements can get where they need to be and that cargo goods like blood, medical products and food supplies can continue to flow," the carrier wrote in a blog post.
All of WestJet's international flights, including to the U.S., remain suspended through June 4th, the carrier said.
"The overall demand for travel remains fluid during this ongoing pandemic and we continue to evaluate further reductions," the company wrote.
Last week, Air Canada halted most international flights until June, while Air Transat and Sunwing cancelled all trips until May 31st.
WestJet and other airlines offer two-year vouchers for cancelled trips.
More layoffs coming
WestJet also announced that in light of its further reduced operations, the airline will increase its current inactive workforce by a further 3,000 people come early May.
“The reality of this crisis continues to require WestJet to make mission-critical decisions to ensure the sustainability of our airline. With less than five per cent of our pre-COVID-19 guest loads, work is simply not currently available. These decisions, while difficult, are being thoughtfully and methodically made so that we can weather this crisis and be ready for a future where we can provide inactive WestJetters with fulfilling employment once again," Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO, stated in a release.
Continued Sims: “WestJet is very appreciative of the Government of Canada’s programs to assist us and other organizations in navigating this pandemic. Therefore, while work is not available and where it is of benefit to our WestJetters, we will utilize the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program to retain our people on our payroll and to ensure they remain connected to the company. We continue to work with our employee and labour groups on ways to maintain employment through the crisis.”
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, to mitigate the impact on its workforce, WestJet implemented immediate cost-cutting measures including releasing more than 80 per cent of outside contractors, instituting a hiring freeze, stopping all non-essential travel and training, suspending any internal role movements and salary adjustments, cutting executive, vice-president and director salaries, pausing more than 75 per cent of its capital projects and asking suppliers for a reduction or delay in payments.