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Canada’s Major Carriers Enact Necessary Cuts

An Air Canada A321 at LAX (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

 The COVID-19 crisis remains a daunting obstacle for airlines. As a result, the airlines continue to constantly monitor travel demand and resume flight operations, accordingly. Also, airlines can allocate and shift their resources to accommodate the revised schedules and adjusted policies. Many major airlines must modify their route network and resources to align with their COVID-19 financial, recovery plans. Recently, Air Canada officially announced the decision to further reduce its Q1 capacity. The airline will also cut a substantial number of jobs.

Canada’s flag carrier plans to cut 1700 jobs and reduce 25 percent of its original capacity for Q1 of 2021.  As a result, the airline expects its capacity to be about 20 percent lower than what they operated in the Q1 of 2019. 

Lucie Guillemette, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Air Canada said, “While this is not the news we were hoping to announce this early into the year, we are nonetheless encouraged that Health Canada has already approved two vaccines and that the Government of Canada expects the vast majority of eligible Canadians to be vaccinated by September. We look forward to seeing our business start to return to normal and to bringing back some of our more than 20,000 employees currently on furlough and layoff.”

Canada continues to exercise numerous travel restrictions, enforce entry requirements for international travelers and observe new pre-departure testing requirements. Also, Canada extended its transborder closure with the U.S.  once again until at least Feb.21. Furthermore, domestically, Air Canada recently decided to suspend operations to a number of its destinations in New Brunswick, Yellowknife, Newfoundland, British Columbia and Labrador.

Guillemette added, “Since the implementation by the Federal and Provincial Governments of these increased travel restrictions and other measures, in addition to the existing quarantine requirements, we have seen an immediate impact to our close-in bookings and have made the difficult but necessary decision to further adjust our schedule and rationalize our transborder, Caribbean and domestic routes to better reflect expected demand and to reduce cash burn.”

Westjet Implements Major Reductions

Before Air Canada’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 dilemma and the new strain, Westjet – one of Air Canada’s major foes and Canada’s second-largest carrier – slashed 30 percent of its planned capacity for the spring schedule. The carrier’s reduction includes the elimination of more than 230 weekly departures, including 160 domestic flights.

Furthermore, the Calgary-based carrier suspended 11 regularly, scheduled routes operating to the U.S. and Mexico. The airline will also halt flights to 13 international and transborder destinations. As a result, 1,000 employees across Westjet will face furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced work hours, causing a disturbance in the airline’s operational network.

Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO, said, “The entire travel industry and its customers are again on the receiving end of incoherent and inconsistent government policy. We have advocated over the past 10 months for a coordinated testing regime on Canadian soil, but this hasty new measure is causing Canadian travelers unnecessary stress and confusion and may make travel unaffordable, unfeasible, and inaccessible for Canadians for years to come,” a sentiment that resonated through the airline’s response to the slump in travel demand and federal government-mandated travel restrictions.

Evidently, Air Canada and Westjet are given the difficult task of deciding to reduce their flight operations and resources, However, both carriers – through their respective COVID-19 decisions and plans – are able to adapt and be flexible during these turbulent times.

Benjamin Pham


  • Benjamin Pham

    Benjamin has had a love for aviation since a young age, growing up in Tampa with a strong interest in airplane models and playing with them. When he moved to the Washington, D.C. area, Benjamin took part in aviation photography for a couple of years at Gravelly Point and Dulles Airport, before dedicating planespotting to only when he traveled to the other airports. He is an avid, world traveler, having been able to reach 32 countries, yearning to explore and understand more cultures soon. Currently, Benjamin is an Air Transporation Management student at Arizona State University. He hopes to enter the airline industry to improve the passenger experience and loyalty programs while keeping up to how technology is being integrated into airports.

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