WestJet pulls back from Atlantic Canada, cuts additional 100 jobs

WestJet announced it will be indefinitely suspending operations to Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney and Charlottetown, while significantly reducing service to Halifax and St. John’s. The suspension eliminates more than 100 flights weekly or almost 80 per cent of seat capacity from the Atlantic region starting Nov. 2 and also suspends operations to Quebec City, with the removal of Toronto service.

WestJet is eliminating more than 100 flights weekly to Atlantic Canada. Galen Burrows Photo
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“It has become increasingly unviable to serve these markets,” said Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO. “Since the pandemic’s beginning, we have worked to keep essential air service to all of our domestic airports, however, demand for travel is being severely limited by restrictive policies and third-party fee increases that have left us out of runway without sector-specific support.”

All flights to and from Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City will be discontinued as of Nov. 2. A return to service date is unknown at this time. Guests impacted will be contacted directly regarding their options for travel to and from the region.

Since 2003, WestJet has successfully brought competition and lower fares to the Atlantic region through new service and routes, while driving tourism and business investments. As of 2019, the airline had added more than 700,000 annual seats to the region since 2015, while creating the opportunity for travel to, from and within the region on 28 routes. The airline has also worked to grow Halifax as the Atlantic gateway to Europe through the introduction of successful nonstop transatlantic service to London-Gatwick, Paris, Glasgow and Dublin since 2016, providing key economic and tourism links between the regions. Up until this announcement, WestJet was the only Canadian airline that maintained 100 per cent of its pre-COVID domestic network.

“We understand this news will be devastating to the communities, our airport partners and the WestJetters who rely on our service,” continued Sims. “While we remain committed to the Atlantic region, it’s impossible to say when there will be a return to service without support for a coordinated domestic approach. Our intent is to return as soon as it becomes economically viable to do so.”

In addition to the Atlantic Canada service changes, WestJet also announced the airline will be laying off an additional 100 corporate and operational support employees as prospects for any near-term recovery continue to fade and demand remains weak across its operations. These permanent layoffs do not include airport staff from affected Atlantic airports due to WestJet’s previous airport transformation announcement.

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In June, WestJet announced permanent layoffs to its workforce through its airport transformation and contact centre consolidation. Regrettably, active WestJetters from the airline’s stations in Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Charlottetown will be impacted by further layoffs as of Nov. 2, 2020.

Atlantic Canada suspensions by the numbers:

  • Elimination of more than 100 weekly flights or almost 80 percent of seat capacity from the Atlantic region.
  • Temporary closure and service to four Atlantic stations (Charlottetown, Moncton, Fredericton and Sydney).
  • Halifax seat capacity will be reduced by 70 per cent year over year.
  • The Atlantic provinces will retain three routes Halifax-Toronto, Halifax-Calgary and St. John’s-Halifax.
  • Service between Halifax and Toronto will operate with 14 weekly flights.
  • Service between Halifax and St. John’s will remain with 11 weekly flights.
  • Service between Halifax and Calgary will remain with nine weekly flights.

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