TORONTO — Canada’s airlines are restoring routes and even though things can change on a dime – as the travel industry has seen countless times over the past 12 months – the news is reason for optimism.
This morning WestJet announced it plans to resume service in Atlantic Canada and Quebec City, starting in June 2021.
WestJet temporarily cut the routes in November 2020, indefinitely suspending operations to 4 Atlantic Canada gateways – Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney and Charlottetown – as well as Quebec City, amid the sharp downturn in travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now WestJet says it is plans to restore flights to Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Quebec City. Service is set to resume to the five airports beginning June 24, 2021 through to June 30, 2021. In addition, service between St. John’s and Toronto, which was indefinitely suspended in October 2020, will resume effective June 24, 2021.
WestJet also says it will move up the restart date of service between St. John’s and Halifax. Originally planned for June 24, 2021, flights are now expected to resume May 6, 2021.
“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.”
Sims said WestJet’s 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.”
Canada’s airlines have long called for a national recovery plan for the country’s airline and travel industries.
The airlines are also waiting for the federal government’s financial assistance package, first announced in November 2020.
“Alongside an accelerated and successful vaccine rollout, we are hopeful that there will be an easing of onerous travel restrictions currently in place,” said Sims. “We look forward to working together to safely reconnect Canadians to the region in the coming months.”
WESTJET ON CONNECTIVITY, REFUNDS AND THE BAILOUT
WestJet’s Director, Government Relations, Andy Gibbons and John Weatherill, Executive Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer, also spoke about the restored service to Atlantic Canada and Quebec City at a press conference this morning.
Gibbons said flights to Deer Lake and Gander will also be restored, at the end of June.
“We want to see Canada reopen safely this summer,” said Gibbons.
When the federal government announced on Nov. 8, 2020 that discussions for a financial assistance package for Canada’s airlines would soon start, two major conditions for any financial assistance were refunds for passengers out-of-pocket as a result of pandemic cancellations, and regional connectivity.
“This was done of our own volition” and is not in conjunction with talks with the federal government, Gibbons added. “We’re going to continue to make the right decisions for WestJet.”
Everyone connected with the airline bailout talks must abide by a non-disclosure agreement. Both Gibbons and Weatherill said they couldn’t provide comment on how the discussions with the government are proceeding.
Reports from the consumer media and industry organizations like ACTA have indicated that the talks are in the final stages.
“Negotiations continue,” said Gibbons. “We’re not able to provide details at this time. Hopefully we’ll have more to say in the near future.”
Asked about refunds, Gibbons said: “We value all of our guests. At the same time we have the most progressive and proactive refund policy of all of Canada’s airlines. We exceed the Canadian regulatory standard.”
Gibbons and Weatherill also took several questions about Canada’s 3-day hotel quarantine rule, the possibility of international flights this summer and whether or not WestJet will require passengers to show proof of vaccination in order to fly with WestJet. That story is here.
AIR CANADA’S MAY FLIGHTS
As WestJet plans for a return to international flying this summer, Air Canada has posted its expected flights for May 2021.
All four of Canada’s major airlines – Air Canada, WestJet, Sunwing and Transat – agreed to a request from the federal government to suspend winter sun flights from Jan. 31, 2021 to April 30, 2021.
To Mexico and the Caribbean, Air Canada is planning to fly one flight per week Toronto – Bridgetown, Barbados starting May 9, one flight per week Toronto – Kingston, Jamaica starting May 5 and three flights per week Toronto – Mexico City starting May 3.
To South America, Air Canada is eyeing three times weekly service Toronto – Bogota starting May 7, and three times weekly service Toronto – Sao Paulo / Guarulhos starting May 6.
For more details about these as well as Air Canada’s planned flights to Europe, Asia Pacific and within North America click here.
WESTJET’S PLANNED NETWORK SERVICE RESUMPTIONS:
|Route||Frequency||Planned restart date|
|St. John’s-Halifax||6x weekly||May 6, 2021|
|Charlottetown-Toronto||11x weekly||June 24, 2021|
|St. John’s-Toronto||1x daily||June 24, 2021|
|Fredericton-Toronto||1x daily||June 26, 2021|
|Quebec City-Toronto||1x daily||June 28, 2021|
|Sydney-Halifax||1x daily||June 28, 2021|
|Moncton-Toronto||1x daily||June 30, 2021|