WestJet temporarily cuts 4 domestic routes in Alberta, Ontario and Atlantic Canada

WestJet says it's temporarily cutting service to some communities in four provinces as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hammer the airline. 

Calgary-based airline blames government policies for the most recent service cuts

WestJet says it has no choice but to cut four domestic routes as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the industry. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

WestJet says it's temporarily cutting service to some communities in four provinces as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hammer the airline. 

The Calgary-based airline says it will stop the following flights until June 24:

  • Calgary to Medicine Hat, Alta., starting on March 21.
  • Calgary to Lloydminster, Alta.,, starting on March 19.
  • London, Ont., to Toronto, starting on March 22.
  • St. John's to Halifax, starting on March 21.

"We have continued to operate in the face of uncertainty as domestic and international travel restrictions and quarantines have caused demand to plummet," said Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO in a news release Thursday.

"Unfortunately, with new and increasingly restrictive policies, we are left once again with no other option than to suspend service to these communities."

Simms said WestJet's ability to return to the markets is "directly correlated to government policies and the prioritiziation of a domestic travel program."

Impact of service cuts

The pause on flights means the Medicine Hat airport no longer has any scheduled passenger flights. 

"In 2019, we had the best year Medicine Hat airport's ever had, and then with the onset of COVID we've basically reduced our operations now to zero for the next three months," said airport manager Jeff Huntus. 

"It was a popular service, but the reality is that with government imposed restrictions and lack of any kind of funding support for airlines or airports, it's just not feasible for air carriers to be running around in empty airplanes."

Huntus says the airport still serves as a medevac base for Alberta Health Services and continues to operate with business traffic, as well as private and charter aircraft.

Previous cuts

The recent cuts aren't the only reductions introduced by WestJet.

In January, the airline cut about 1,000 jobs and slashed its flight capacity by one-third, which it blamed on a new government policy requiring a negative COVID-19 test prior to flying.

WestJet says it is operating at more than a 90 per cent reduction year over year.

The airline said it will be working with third-party service providers to help fill the gaps left by the newly announced service cuts and guests impacted by the changes will be contacted directly about their options.

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