Saturday, 9 January 2021

WestJet takes aim at the government over COVID testing regime by slashing flights and standing down staff

The Canadian airline WestJet announced today that in response to the Federal Government's newly introduced inbound COVID-19 testing regime it would be slashing flights and standing down up to 1000 staff members.

The airline will remove approximately 30 % of its currently planned February and March capacity from the schedule,  down 80% from last year. WestJet will also reduce domestic operations by 160 flights. Because of this reduction in capacity, the equivalent of 1,000 employees from across the group will be laid off through a combination of furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours. WestJet said there will also be a hiring freeze implemented and refused to say how many staff would be laid off perminately.

WestJet will suspend 11 routes 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.  Seasonal suspension of 13 international and transborder destinations (Antigua, Aruba, Barbados, Bonaire, Huatulco, Ixtapa, London (Gatwick), Mazatlán, Nassau (Bahamas), Port of Spain, San Jose (Costa Rica), Tampa, and Turks and Caicos. 

"Immediately following the federal government's inbound testing announcement on 31st December and with the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, we saw significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations," said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO, before launching into an attack on the government, "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 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,"

There is no doubt that WestJet is disappointed and frustrated with the government's position on curbing the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, but the management seems to be taking that frustration and anger out on the wrong people. Today's announcement will simply damage the lives of staff and to a lesser degree, the airline's passengers - both of whom have had a pretty difficult time in recent months.  The airline is instigating a cruel and heartless outcome on WestJet's loyal and hardworking staff simply to attack the government for trying to protect the wider society.  

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