Regional hubs in Canada welcome restoration of WestJet routes suspended as a result of COVID.

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WestJet is restoring domestic flights to Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Quebec City after service was suspended as a result of COVID-19. The reinstatement of service to the five airports is set to be resumed from the end of June and will restore WestJet’s complete network of pre-COVID-19 domestic airports.

“We committed to return to the communities we left, as a result of the pandemic, and we will be restoring flights to these regions in the coming months, of our own volition,” said Ed Sims, WestJet, President and CEO. “These communities have been a crucial factor in our success over our 25 years and it is critical for us to ensure they have access to affordable air service and domestic connectivity to drive their economic recovery.”

In addition to the resumption of services to these five airports, WestJet will also resume service between St John’s and Toronto, which was indefinitely suspended in October. And following a temporary suspension the restart of service between St. John’s and Halifax will be advanced from 24 June to 6 May.

“Our focus remains on the safe restart of air travel. We ask that federal and provincial governments work with us to provide clarity and certainty to Canadians, including travel policies that support economic recovery and restore jobs,” continued Sims.

In recognition of the investments that WestJet’s travel and tourism partners in the respective regions need to make to begin to recover from the pandemic, the airline will continue to encourage the Atlantic premiers to advance their efforts to ensure the region is open to Canadians this summer.

Sims concluded that alongside an accelerated and successful vaccine rollout, “we are hopeful that there will be an easing of onerous travel restrictions currently in place. We look forward to working together to safely reconnect Canadians to the region in the coming months.”

WestJet temporarily suspends flights to four domestic hubs

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Operating at more than a 90% reduction year on year, Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet is temporarily suspending operations to St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador, London in Ontario and Lloydminster as well as Medicine Hat in Alberta. Services to the four domestic hubs will be suspended from 19 March to 24 June 2021.

Commenting on how the airline has continued to operate in the face of uncertainty throughout the pandemic as travel restrictions have caused demand to plummet, Ed Sims,  WestJet President and CEO said: “Unfortunately with new and increasingly restrictive policies, we are left once again, with no other option than to suspend services to these communities.”

In June 2020, the airline announced organisational changes through its airport transformation programme. As a result of the suspensions, WestJet will be working directly with newly established third-party service providers in St. John’s and London, Ontario, and directly with Pacific Coastal Airlines for affected WestJet Link operations in Lloydminster and Medicine Hat.

Flights between St. John’s and Halifax will be suspended as of 21 March, while service between London, Ontario and Toronto will cease on 22 March. WestJet Link service from Calgary to Lloydminster will end on 19 March and Calgary to Medicine Hat discontinued as of 21 March.

“Our ability to return to markets remains directly correlated to government policies and the prioritisation of a domestic travel programme,” continued Sims. “As we look ahead to contributing to the economic recovery of Canada, the relationship between testing and quarantine must evolve based on data and science.”

WestJet slashes capacity with knock-on effect on domestic hubs

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Following the Canadian government’s decision to introduce inbound testing and the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, WestJet has noted significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations on flights. Subsequently the airline has made further cuts to its schedule as it continues to face volatile demand and instability in the face of continuing federal government travel advisories and restrictions.

Cuts to the airline’s schedule include the elimination of more than 230 weekly departures (including 160 domestic) and the removal of more than 30% of capacity versus prior months. It will also include the suspension of 11 routes (Edmonton-Cancun, Edmonton-Puerto Vallarta, Edmonton-Phoenix, Vancouver-Cancun, Vancouver-Phoenix, Vancouver-Puerto Vallerta, Vancouver-Cabo, Vancouver-Los Angeles, Vancouver-Palm Springs, Calgary-Las Vegas, Calgary-Orlando).

Around 1,000 employees across the WestJet Group will also be impacted through a combination of furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leave and reduced hours. There will also be a hiring freeze implemented.

“The entire travel industry and its customers are again on the receiving end of incoherent and inconsistent government policy,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO in response to the government’s new testing regime. “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 continued.

“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,” he added.

The airline plans to remove approximately 30% of its currently planned February and March capacity from the schedule, a more than 80% reduction year on year. In addition, the airline will reduce domestic frequencies by 160 departures as frequently evolving advisories, travel restrictions and guidance continue to negatively impact demand trends.

WestJet unveils flagship lounge at Calgary Airport

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Canadian carrier, WestJet, is set to reveal its flagship lounge – the WestJet Elevation lounge at Calgary Airport in Canada.

Located in the airport’s domestic terminal and accessible to guests departing from Concourses A, B, C and Concourse D of the international terminal, the lounge will open to the public on 2 November in partnership with the Calgary Airport Authority.

“The WestJet Elevation Lounge is a global first and we are excited and proud that YYC Calgary International Airport is its home. WestJet is YYC’s biggest airline – by seats, by departures and by destinations served. Having the flagship WestJet Elevation Lounge here in Calgary means our mutual guests will have a new premium travel experience with great local amenities at the highest health and safety standards,” said Rob Palmer, Vice President of Commercial, Strategy and Chief Financial Officer at Calgary Airport Authority.

Featuring Canadian-inspired details, the lounge boasts more than 9,300 sq. ft of premium space and panoramic views. The flagship space was designed in collaboration with global architecture and design firm Gensler with a brief of incorporating the needs and safety of guests and frequent travellers.

Describing the opening of the lounge as a “pivotal moment” WestJet, Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet CCO, said: “It was only fitting to open this flagship space within our home hub in Calgary. The lounge will provide our top-tier Westjet Rewards members and business cabin travellers with a safe and comfortable place to rest, rejuvenate and work when visiting Calgary.”

Suspension of WestJet services impacts Canadian airports

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Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet is indefinitely suspending operations from Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney and Charlottetown, while also reducing services to Halifax and St. John’s from the beginning of November.  A return to service date is unknown.

More than 100 weekly flights, the equivalent of almost 80% seat capacity from the Atlantic region will be eliminated as a result of the announcement.

“It has become unviable to serve these markets and these decisions were regrettably inevitable as demand is being obliterated by the Atlantic bubble and third-party fee increases,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO.

He added that since the beginning of the pandemic the airline has worked keep essential air service to all its domestic airports. “But we are out of runway and have been forced to suspend service in the region without sector-specific support.”

Up until this announcement WestJet was the only Canadian airline to maintain 100% of its pre-COVID domestic network. Since 2003 the airline has been credited with successfully bringing competition and lower fares to the Atlantic region, and subsequently driving tourism and business investments. The airline had announced permanent layoffs  to its workforce through its airport transformation and contact centre consolidation back in June. Further layoffs are expected at Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Charlottetown when services are suspended in November.

“We understand this is devastating news to the communities, our airport partners and the WestJetters who rely on our airline, but these suspensions were unavoidable without the prioritisation of rapid-testing or support for the introduction of a safe Canadian bubble,” added Sims. “We remain committed to the Atlantic region and it is our intent to resume operations as soon as it becomes economically viable to do so.”