WestJet Cancels More Flights As Omicron Impact Continues

WestJet has slashed its March timetables by 20% due to weak passenger demand and continuing travel restrictions in Canada. WestJet says air travel continues to be the most tested yet most restricted consumer activity in Canada. The airline had already cut its February capacity by 20%.

In a media statement, WestJet’s interim President and CEO, Harry Taylor, called out Canada’s strict testing regime. Mr Taylor says the mandatory molecular testing regime for fully vaccinated travelers before and after travel to Canada is excessive. He calls the current testing rules punitive for passengers and a deterrent to travel.

Canada remains the only country among the G7 nations to still require mandatory pre-departure and on-arrival PCR testing,said Mr. Taylor.It is disappointing that Canada remains stagnant in its approach and continues to make travel inaccessible and punitive for Canadians and inbound tourists.”


WestJet slashes flights through to March 31

That approach has dashed hopes Canada’s carriers had for a busy winter of flying. WestJet canceled 1,467 flights in January (or 13% of its scheduled flying) in response to the omicron variant impacting the ability of the airline to operate flights and government-imposed barriers to travel. Competitor Air Canada canceled 2,755 flights in January, or 12% of its overall schedule.

In mid-January, WestJet announced another round of flight cuts through to the end of February. Monday’s announcement extends those cuts through to March 31.

“Travel advisories, restrictions, and testing requirements were meant to be temporary, yet our industry has now reached an impasse that is severely impacting the recovery of our airline and sector,says Mr Taylor.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reports since November, WestJet and its low-cost subsidiary Swoop have now canceled 11,285 flights through to March. Air Canada has scrapped 16,617 flights since mid-October.


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WestJet has canceled 20% of its flights over March. Photo: Getty Images

WestJet CEO calls for changes to Canada’s testing regime

Harry Taylor wants Canada to align with other nations and eliminate quarantine and isolation for travelers awaiting their results after returning to Canada. He has called on the Canadian Government to outline a roadmap for the recovery of the travel and tourism industry that is based on science and reflective of the current realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Canada remains the only country among the G7 nations to still require mandatory pre-departure and on-arrival PCR testing,said Mr. Taylor. †Countries across the globe are recognizing the importance of travel and tourism on economic recovery, and we are witnessing them take measures to safely re-open their borders and make sensible adjustments to overall travel guidance and testing requirements.”


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WestJet’s CEO wants changes to Canada’s testing regime for arriving passengers. Photo: WestJet

WestJet CEO says its time for a change

The Canadian government advises its citizens to avoid non-essential travel outside Canada regardless of vaccination status. Even on domestic flights, travelers aged 12 years and older on WestJet’s must provide proof of vaccination status. A complex set of arrangements governs inbound international travelers, Canadian citizens, and otherwise.


WestJet’s interim President and CEO argues the regime is unnecessary, out of step with Canada’s international peers, and killing demand for air travel. As an airline executive, he has a vested interest in changing this.

“Our industry has now reached an impasse that is severely impacting the recovery of our airline and sector,” Mr Taylor adds. “The time is now to present a path forward that is in line with our global counterparts, reflective of current data, and once again make travel accessible and affordable for Canadians.”


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