WestJet pilots to launch strike authorization vote as negotiations fizzle

WestJet consolidating 20% of its scheduled flights for February 2022

CALGARY — No airline is immune to omicron’s impact and that includes WestJet, announcing today that it will consolidate 20% of its scheduled flights for the month of February.

“WestJet has made the difficult decision to consolidate 20 percent of its scheduled flights from February 1 through to February 28, 2022. These reductions are in addition to WestJet’s January flight consolidation announcement,” says a statement from the airline issued this morning.

The airline cites omicron’s impact on staffing levels as well as the Canada’s travel restrictions as the reasons for the cuts.

Says Harry Taylor, Interim WestJet Group, President & CEO: “As we continue to navigate the unpredictability of the Omicron variant on our staffing levels along with the ongoing barriers to international travel, we are making every effort to proactively manage our schedule in order to minimize disruption to our guests’ travel plans.”

Taylor added: “To our guests impacted by these additional consolidations, we sincerely apologize for the disruption and appreciate your continued understanding and patience.”

WestJet will notify impacted travellers of changes to their itineraries by email. Still dealing with hours-long wait times  for its call centres, WestJet is encouraging travellers to use self-serve options prior to calling for assistance. Flexible change and cancel guidelines and schedule change refund policies remain in place.

The company notes that Canada has an envious global leadership position in vaccination rates, and aviation remains the only fully-vaccinated transportation sector and the most tested consumer activity in Canada.

WestJet says national alignment and standardization for the sector remain urgently required.

“We continue to advocate for the elimination of cumbersome travel rules that are unnecessarily impacting Canadians and prolonging the recovery of the travel and tourism sector,” says Taylor. “Canada remains one of the only countries in the world requiring multiple molecular tests for fully-vaccinated travellers — these testing resources should be redeployed to our communities.”

WestJet’s chief medical officer, Dr. Tammy McKnight, along with Dr. Jim Chung, Chief Medical Officer, Air Canada and Dr. Edward Wasser, Chief Medical Officer, Toronto Pearson, yesterday called on the government to redeploy much-needed PCR tests into communities across Canada, instead of using them at the airport for arriving travellers.

All of Canada’s major carriers have been forced to cancel flights or temporarily suspend destinations in recent weeks in the wake of omicron and the federal government’s reinstated travel advisory.

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