WestJet hedges its bets with strong domestic program, adding more flights in the West

WestJet hedges its bets with strong domestic program, adding more flights in the West

CALGARY — Banking on another summer of domestic travel amid the pandemic, WestJet says it will restore more service to its Canadian network with 11 new routes across the West and Ontario.

The routes include new connectivity between the prairie provinces and tourism destinations in B.C.

The news comes two days after WestJet said it will bring back flights to Atlantic Canada and Quebec City. Flights to Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Quebec City will be restored starting in June 2021 after service had been suspended indefinitely in November 2020. Flights to Deer Lake and Gander will also be restored, at the end of June.

In Western Canada, WestJet announced today will offer nonstop service to 15 communities across Alberta, B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.

 

 

The new routes include flights between Toronto (YYZ) and Comox (YQQ); between Ottawa (YOW) and Victoria (YYJ); and eight new routes connecting the Prairies to top tourism destinations in B.C., such as Regina (YQR) to Kelowna (YLW).

Full schedule details and start dates are outlined here:

Route Frequency Effective from
Toronto – Fort McMurray 2x weekly (Wed, Sun) June 6, 2021
Kelowna – Saskatoon 2x weekly (Thu, Sun) June 24, 2021
Kelowna – Regina 2x weekly (Thu, Sun) June 24, 2021
Saskatoon – Victoria 2x weekly (Thu, Sun) June 24, 2021
Winnipeg – Victoria 3x weekly (Thu, Sat, Sun) June 24, 2021
Edmonton – Kamloops 2x weekly (Thu, Sun) June 24, 2021
Edmonton – Penticton 2x weekly (Thu, Sun) June 24, 2021
Edmonton – Nanaimo 2x weekly (Fri, Sun) June 25, 2021
Prince George – Abbotsford 2x weekly (Fri, Sun) June 25, 2021
Ottawa – Victoria 1x weekly (Sat) June 26, 2021
Toronto – Comox 1x weekly (Sat) June 26, 2021

“As we look to the coming months with cautious optimism, we know our restart agenda will be pivotal to Canada’s economic recovery,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “Stimulating air travel benefits all Canadians and supports those hardest hit; with one in every 10 Canadian jobs tied to travel and tourism, the ripple effect benefits our whole country.”

“We are at an inflection point, one that is buoyed by the rollout of vaccines, months of learning how to take appropriate precautions, and a view to Canada’s beautiful summer months that allows us to spend more time outdoors,” added Sims. “If Canadians were to shift two-thirds of their planned international-leisure travel spend towards domestic tourism, it would help sustain 150,000 jobs and accelerate recovery by one year, all while seeing what Canada has to offer.”

 

“WHERE THE HECK IS OTTAWA’S AID PLAN?”

At a press conference on March 24, 2021 announcing the restored service to Atlantic Canada, WestJet’s Director, Government Relations, Andy Gibbons and John Weatherill, Executive Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer, said WestJet’s decision to ramp up domestic service wasn’t influenced by ongoing airline industry bailout talks with the federal government.

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.

On Wednesday WestJet’s Gibbons said: “We want to see Canada reopen safely this summer. This was done of our own volition. 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.

In columns this week in the Calgary Herald and Edmonton Journal, there were questions about why the federal government still hasn’t announced details about the financial assistance package.

Talks are said to be in the home stretch, but it’s been more than four months since Garneau first made the announcement.

“A year into the crisis, where the heck is Ottawa’s aid plan?” asked Chris Varcoe in a March 24, 2021 column for the Calgary Herald.

And in the Edmonton Journal, columnist John Liston says Canada’s airlines need policies that allow for safe travel. “This has been done largely around the world and it is time for Canada to catch up,” says Liston.

While WestJet is focused on domestic travel this summer, it’s also eyeing a restart of international service.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Gibbons and Weatherill said WestJet is aiming to restart international flights in summer 2021.

WestJet has asked the federal government to phase out the 3-day hotel quarantine requirement for international travellers starting May 1, 2021. “The hotel quarantine was not designed to encourage the restart of travel,” said Gibbons. “The hotel quarantine was designed to dampen or eliminate travel.”