WestJet places 1,000 staff on go away, citing authorities’s ‘Incoherent’ coverage

Dan Therapeutic and Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Revealed Friday, January eight, 2021 2:54PM EST

The CEO of WestJet Airways Ltd. is laying the blame squarely on “incoherent” coverage from Ottawa as his provider cuts workers and flights in response to new COVID-19 testing necessities for passengers returning to Canada.

The Calgary-based airline introduced Friday about 1,000 workers shall be furloughed, briefly laid off, placed on unpaid go away or have their hours minimize, and it’ll chop about 30 per cent of its capability for February and March and pull 160 home departures from its schedule.

Journey cancellations and reductions in new bookings started instantly after the federal authorities warned of the inbound testing guidelines and continued requirement for a 14-day quarantine on Dec. 31, stated WestJet CEO Ed Sims in a press release.

“Your complete journey trade and its clients are once more on the receiving finish of incoherent and inconsistent authorities coverage,”‘ he stated.

“We’ve advocated over the previous 10 months for a co-ordinated testing regime on Canadian soil, however this hasty new measure is inflicting Canadian travellers pointless stress and confusion and will make journey unaffordable, unfeasible and inaccessible for Canadians for years to return.”

The brand new flight cuts imply WestJet could have decreased flights by greater than 80 per cent in contrast with the identical time final yr, it stated.

Worldwide capability shall be down 93 per cent yr over yr and solely 5 every day flights shall be supplied in contrast with 100 final yr. General, it can provide 150 every day departures, returning to ranges not seen since 2001, it stated.

The federal authorities stated final week that Canada-bound air passengers must present proof of a damaging COVID-19 take a look at end result as a way to board their flight — a requirement that took impact on Thursday.

Transport Minister Marc Garneau stated on Wednesday the restrictions would go forward as deliberate to coincide with the expiration of Canada’s ban on flights from the UK. Canada halted most air journey from the U.Okay., the place a mutated pressure of COVID-19 had been found, on Dec. 20.

Airways and passengers had a turbulent 24 hours below the brand new testing regime.

WestJet stated it needed to deny boarding to 32 passengers on its six worldwide flights into Canada on Thursday.

“Yesterday was a really busy day,” stated spokeswoman Morgan Bell.

The travellers have been turned away attributable to improper exams — antigen or antibody exams, moderately than the required PCR take a look at frequent in Canada and involving a deep nasal swab — no take a look at in any respect, or one taken greater than 72 hours earlier than departure, she stated.

“Our workforce on the bottom has rebooked friends affected and is helping with discovering eligible exams every time potential … to make sure they will return to Canada at a later date,” Bell stated.

Air Transat denied boarding to 10 passengers who didn’t have a PCR take a look at on its three northbound flights Thursday. A dozen extra travellers have been turned away on a flight from Paris on Friday morning.

“As well as, for the three flights, we noticed a major variety of no-shows, which we can’t clarify with certainty. We are going to observe the evolution of the state of affairs carefully within the coming days,” stated Transat spokesman Christophe Hennebelle.

“There shall be some stranded passengers, sadly — a bit bit extra heads-up and co-operation might have helped stopping this.”

He added Air Transat is contemplating changes to its schedule however famous its program is already minimal, transferring greater than 90 per cent fewer passengers in December than in the identical month final yr.

Air Canada didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon whether or not its flights or workers are affected.

The cutbacks at WestJet are the results of a “continued assault” on airways with out compensation, stated Chris Rauenbusch, president of the Canadian Union of Public Workers native that represents cabin crew members at WestJet.

“Ottawa has demonstrated zero understanding of the $36-billion in GDP Canada’s airways contribute to our financial system,” he stated in a press release.

“If this trade collapses, not solely will jobs in our sector vanish, however so will jobs throughout a number of different sectors.”

On Wednesday, Wendy Paradis, president of the Affiliation of Canadian Journey Businesses, stated the testing necessities have been being imposed on “unrealistic” timelines and have been already inflicting “chaos” for journey brokers as travellers lined as much as cancel journeys.

WestJet, which was purchased by Onex Corp. in 2019, joined Air Canada, Air Transat and Sunwing, together with the Nationwide Airways Council of Canada and the Worldwide Air Transportation Affiliation, in unsuccessfully asking Ottawa for an 11-day extension to implement the brand new guidelines.

In October, WestJet suspended service to 4 Atlantic Canada cities and laid off 100 company workers, after shedding four,000 staff because the pandemic started.

It at present has 5,700 energetic and 5,200 inactive workers, stated Bell, down from over 14,000 earlier than the pandemic erupted.

Sims stated within the assertion that different WestJet staff may also see an affect on their paycheques, calling the workforce cuts a “merciless final result for loyal and hardworking workers who’ve been diligently working via the pandemic.”

With a file from Anita Balakrishnan in Toronto.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Jan. eight, 2021.