WestJet Suspends 4 Domestic Routes As Demand Drop Continues

Canada’s second-largest airline WestJet announced today that it would temporarily be suspending an additional four domestic routes as a result of the ongoing crisis. From March 19th to June 24th, the airline will no longer serve St John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador, London in Ontario, and Lloydminster and Medicine Hat in Alberta. 

WestJet 737 taking off
WestJet will temporarily suspend four more domestic routes from March 19th. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Left with no other option

Canadian commercial aviation is fighting an uphill battle against travel restrictions from Ottawa and abroad. WestJet announced Thursday that it would be suspending a further four domestic routes for three months due to faltering demand.

WestJet Link services from Calgary to Lloydminster will end on March 19th, and flights between St John’s and Halifax on March 21st. Routes between Toronto and London will cease March 22nd, as will flights between Calgary and Medicine Hat. Affected passengers will be contacted directly. 

“We have continued to operate in the face of uncertainty as domestic and international travel restrictions and quarantines have caused demand to plummet. Unfortunately, with new and increasingly restrictive policies, we are left once again, with no other option than to suspend service to these communities,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO, in a statement seen by Simple Flying.

Westjet 737
WestJet’S CEO said that data and science must inform the way to recovery. Photo: Getty Images

Return dependent on government policies

WestJet also confirmed that it continues to operate at more than 90% reduction compared to last year. Canada’s second-largest airline recently announced additional staff cuts due to suspending its Mexican and Caribbean network. This added another 450 job cuts to the 1,000 already announced earlier this year alone. Meanwhile, in June 2020, the airline implemented organizational changes affecting over 3,000 employees.

“Our ability to return to markets remains directly correlated to government policies and the prioritization of a domestic travel program. As we look ahead to contributing to the economic recovery of Canada, the relationship between testing and quarantine must evolve based on data and science,” Mr Sims continued.

Air Canada and WestJet Getty
Canadian airlines are fighting an uphill battle against strict quarantine rules and travel restrictions. Photo: Getty Images

Canada’s strict quarantine rules

Canadian airlines are struggling under the weight of the country’s travel restrictions and quarantine rules. Furthermore, carriers have agreed with the government to suspend routes to sun destinations over the spring break period to help minimize the further spread of coronavirus and its new variants.

Moreover, the Canadian government has implemented a strict quarantine scheme, where inbound international travelers must quarantine for three days at a hotel at their own expense. They must then take a COVID-test. Given that it is negative, they may quarantine at home under surveillance. If it is positive, further isolation at a government-designated facility awaits to make sure it is not one of the newer variants.

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Some of Canada’s provinces and territories also have their own restrictions. For example, only residents of one of the Atlantic Provinces, essential workers, or those traveling for reasons such as a funeral or permanent relocation are allowed to enter Newfoundland and Labrador.

WestJet’s archrival Air Canada recently announced it was suspending 17 transborder and international routes, as well as cutting an additional 1,500 positions. This takes Air Canada’s total job cuts for this year up to 5,000.

Do you think the Canadian government should provide direct support to the country’s airlines? Let us know in the comments.