WestJet Airlines will suspend flight services to Moncton, Fredericton, Charlottetown, Sydney, and Quebec City beginning November 2. Flights to Halifax and St. John’s will also be significantly reduced.
In an October 14 video message, Ed Sims, President and CEO of WestJet, announced the cancellation of 100 flights, or 80 percent of seat capacity, to and from major cities in the Atlantic region, due to the plummet in travel demands.
“In normal times, we would fly more than two million guests every month. Since the onset of the pandemic in March, we have flown just over one million guests in total,” Sims said. “The lack of travel demand, combined with domestic quarantines, means that we can no longer maintain our full Canadian network of service.”
According to Sims, WestJet has helped lower airline fares in the Atlantic region since 2003, through the addition of more than 700,000 seats annually since 2015, and through the creation of 28 routes from and within these communities.
Sims also pointed to the substantial increase of customer service fees proposed by Nav Canada as a pressure on the company’s operation. The policy led WestJet to respond with a raise in its surcharges on domestic flights by between $4 and $7 per passenger.
“Nav Canada, the federal body responsible for air traffic control is taking an almost 30 percent fee increase,” Sims said, “With thousands out of work and a COVID-induced recession in full swing, price increases that make air travel even more expensive are not what the travelling public needs or can even afford right now.”
In a May 21st report, Nav Canada proposed to raise customer service charges by 29.5 percent on average, which went into effect on September 1. The COVID-19 pandemic had strained its liquidity as lockdown measures pushed travel demands down a sharp declivity.
Nav Canada forecasted a cash outflow for the current fiscal year to be at $382.6 million, and $487.4 million for fiscal year 2021. It worked to address the liquidity issue with a combination of increased customer service charge revenues and additional debt financing.
“Nav Canada is proposing this rate action only after having actively pursued all available alternatives, including government assistance,” Nav Canada said in announcing the change.
Following the announcement on service changes, WestJet also made the decision to lay off at least 100 corporate and operational support employees, on top of the 4,000 workers that were discharged in March.