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WestJet announces further service cuts, 1,000 layoffs

Last Updated Jan 8, 2021 at 11:47 am MST

The WestJet head office is shown in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, March 25, 2020. WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it will lay off 3,333 employees as part of major restructuring amid a coronavirus pandemic that has devastated the travel industry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – Citing instability from federal government travel advisories and restrictions, WestJet has announced more cuts to service and layoffs.

The Calgary-based airline announced about 1,000 employees will be impacted through furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours.

A hiring freeze will also be implemented.

“Immediately following the federal government’s inbound testing announcement on December 31, and with the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, we saw significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations,” said President and CEO Ed Sims.

“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 travellers unnecessary stress and confusion and may make travel unaffordable, unfeasible and inaccessible for Canadians for years to come.”

The airline said it will remove 30 per cent of its capacity for February and March and reduce domestic frequencies by 160 departures.

The federal government said last week that Canada-bound air passengers would have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result in order to board their flight, a requirement that took effect Thursday.

WestJet, which was bought by Onex Corp. in 2019, was among several airlines that had unsuccessfully asked Ottawa for an 11-day extension to implement the new rules.

In October, WestJet suspended service to four Atlantic Canada cities and laid off 100 corporate employees, after laying off 4,000 workers since the pandemic began.

-With files from The Canadian Press