WestJet Lays Off An Additional 400 Pilots

The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) Canada has today shared that WestJet is laying off an additional 400 pilots. The pilots union highlights that the whole Canadian aviation industry continues to face difficulties amid ongoing government restrictions that have been in place for approximately a year.

WestJet LaGuardia Getty
With more than 80% of its aircraft on the ground, WestJet continues to operate over a 90% reduction in passenger and revenue year over year.  Photo: Getty Images

A valuable role

According to a statement shared by ALPA, the group’s president, Tim Perry expressed that Canada’s aviation industry is a critical part of Canada’s economy that facilitates both national and global business. It also plays a key part in tourism and ensures the free movement of people and cargo.

He also said that before the global health crisis, the industry employed over 141,000 Canadians with an economic footprint of $50 billion. The market also supported numerous other jobs in the nation.

Westjet plane tails in Pearson International Airport.
WestJet shared that it is deeply disappointed that it has to make these reductions to its workforce. Photo: Getty Images

A dire situation

Despite this, stringent long-term restrictions have put many roles in danger over the last year. These recent layoffs are part of a series of actions across the industry in response to the tough conditions. Just two months ago, it was announced that WestJet would lay off 250 staff. Overall, Perry feels that the government has to do more to secure the future of the aviation workers of Canada.

“Unfortunately, the government continues in its failure to respond adequately to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis on Canada’s aviation sector. As the government continues to procrastinate, the industry grows more vulnerable with every passing day, and jobs continue to disappear. Almost 10,000 WestJet careers remain in limbo, with only 4,800 employees remaining on staff, compared to the 14,000 employed just 12 months ago. More than 400 additional layoffs, including my own, took effect today,” Perry shared in the statement.

“ALPA Canada also represents the pilots of Air Transat, where the employment status of nearly 5,000 highly skilled workers remains unknown. In addition to failing to mitigate the fallout from the pandemic, our government spent 18 months deliberating over the pending sale of this airline to another industry competitor, which only added more uncertainty.”

Support needed

Perry adds that ALPA has remained consistent with its approach with the government. The group is determined to implement a balanced solution and with the federal budget less than three weeks away, it will continue to promote its science-based recommendations.

WestJet Air Canada
There are concerns across the country. Photo: Getty Images

Altogether, ALPA firmly encourages authorities to ensure labor groups are part of discussions regarding the implementation of a financial assistance program. These initiatives should provide direct support to airlines that have been rocked by the pandemic. It should also highly support the employees of the carriers.

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There has been some sort of progress across North America when it comes to pilot roles this week. Yesterday, it was reported that United Airlines is rehiring approximately 300 pilots.

Notably, Air Canada and Air Transat just announced that they are canceling their proposed merger. With all the transitions in the industry in recent months, it will be interesting to see the landscape of Canadian aviation when consistent recovery starts.

Simple Flying reached out to WestJet for comment on the layoffs. The company shared a statement from president and CEO Ed Sims from earlier last month that highlighted the issues. With the previous memorandum of agreement (MOA) exploring on March 31st, the airline was hopeful that ALPA and WestJet could reach an agreement to mitigate further impact to the pilot group. Unfortunately, this was not the case and regretfully it is moving ahead with the layoff of 415 of its pilots.

WestJet concludes that Canada must prioritize domestic travel and negotiate a transparent and clear policy with provincial governments based on data and science regarding virus levels and vaccinations

What are your thoughts about WestJet laying off an additional 400 pilots? Have you also been impacted by the conditions of the pandemic? Let us know what you think of the situation in the comment section.