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WestJet Reduces Flight Operations By 20% in March

A WestJet Boeing 787 enters the runway at Paine Field in Washington. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Canadian airline WestJet is set to reduce flight operations across its network by 20% in March, citing continued restrictions for international travel. The Calgary, Canada-based carrier will also be extending reductions in capacity that were implemented for January and February.

“It’s disappointing that Canada remains stagnant in its approach and continues to make travel inaccessible and punitive for Canadians and inbound tourists,” Interim WestJet Chief Executive Officer Harry Taylor said in a statement.

Passengers arriving into Canada must be vaccinated or have a medical exemption and regardless of vaccination status are currently required to undertake a pre-departure Covid-19 test within 72 hours of flight departure. Further testing and restrictions are also currently in place for arriving passengers with self-isolation requirements for unvaccinated passengers and vaccinated passengers awaiting arrival test results.

CTV News reported that Taylor stated, “Canada remains the only country among G7 nations to still require mandatory pre-departure and on-arrival PCR testing. 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.”

Last month, the chief medical officers for WestJet and Air Canada, in addition to major hub Toronto Pearson Airport, called on governments to “shift PCR testing from airports to communities.” In an open letter, Dr. Tammy McKnight, Dr. Jim Chung and Dr. Edward Wasser stated that in one week of arrival testing, “over 123,000 PCR tests were conducted at Canada’s airports with an average positivity rate of 3%.” They compared this to the average community positivity rate that was 30% at the time and questioned the imbalance in the allocation of testing resources.

On Wednesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney backed the aviation industry’s calls to remove and relax travel restrictions. Speaking at the Council of the Federation meeting of Canada’s premier’s Kenney said, “Our response to Covid needs to change as the disease and the threat change, and with respect to travel, there are many jurisdictions around the world that have adopted more common-sense travel protocols than we have now in place in Canada.”

According to Lethbridge News, Kenney is calling for the federal government to eliminate three current restrictions on international travel: the requirement for a molecular test 72 hours prior to flight departure, testing and self-isolation upon arrival, and the requirement for children under the age of five to quarantine upon arrival.

The calls for the easing of restrictions come amidst protests in Canada’s capital — Ottawa — against federal vaccine mandates. Protests that have disrupted the nation’s capital and spread to Canada-U.S. border crossings restrict the movement of trade.

John Flett


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John has held the positions of course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and has been a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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