If there was one person who could truly be called an icon of the travel industry, it was Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart.
CALGARY — WestJet is indefinitely suspending operations to 4 Atlantic Canada gateways – Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney and Charlottetown – and significantly reducing service to 2 more, Halifax and St. John’s, amid the sharp downturn in travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Effective Nov. 2 all flights to and from Moncton, Fredericton, Sydney, Charlottetown and Quebec City will be discontinued. Service to and from Halifax and St. John’s will see cuts. All told the move will impact more than 100 flights per week, or almost 80% of seat capacity from the Atlantic region.
WestJet says a return to service date is unknown at this time. Passengers impacted by the suspension of operations will be contacted directly regarding their options for travel to and from the region.
“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.”
A video message from WestJet President and CEO, Ed Sims is available here.
Sims notes that since 2003, WestJet has brought competition and lower fares to the Atlantic region through new service and routes. As of 2019, WestJet had added more than 700,000 annual seats to the region since 2015, with 28 routes.
Pre-pandemic, WestJet was developing Halifax into its Atlantic gateway to Europe through the introduction of nonstop transatlantic service to London-Gatwick, Paris, Glasgow and Dublin.
WestJet was the only Canadian airline that maintained 100% of its pre-COVID domestic network, until this announcement.
“We understand this news will be devastating to the communities, our airport partners and the WestJetters who rely on our service,” said 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.”
WestJet today is also laying off an additional 100 corporate and operational support employees. The company says prospects for any near-term recovery continue to fade and demand remains weak across its operations.
Since July 3 Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador, PEI and New Brunswick have maintained an ‘Atlantic bubble’ in an effort to keep COVID-19 transmission and caseloads to a minimum. Air travel to and from Canada has also been severely impacted by the federal government’s 14-day quarantine requirement and its advisory against all non-essential travel, now into its eighth month.