WestJet to restore service to airports in Atlantic Canada, Quebec City
Flights to Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney, Quebec City and St. John's were suspended last fall
WestJet is restoring service to six airports in Eastern Canada that was suspended last fall due to the pandemic, the Calgary-based airline announced Wednesday.
Flights in and out of Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney and Quebec City will resume beginning June 24 through to June 30.
Service between St. John's and Toronto, which was indefinitely suspended in October, will also resume on June 24.
The resumption of the flights will restore WestJet's complete network of pre-COVID-19 domestic airports, the airline said.
"Our focus remains on the safe restart of air travel. We ask that federal and provincial governments work with us to provide clarity and certainty to Canadians, including travel policies that support economic recovery and restore jobs," said WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims in a release.
'The deciding factor will be demand'
The resumption of service to Atlantic Canada and Quebec City will be gradual and adjusted as the airline gauges how many flights are warranted, WestJet's chief commercial officer, John Weatherill, said at a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
Initially, the airline will operate daily flights between Toronto and St. John's, Fredericton, Moncton and Quebec City. It will also run 11 flights per week between Toronto and Charlottetown and six per week between St. John's and Halifax.
"The deciding factor will be demand," he said. "Our expectation is that demand will be very high this summer."
The resumed flights will see the airline bring back some laid-off flight attendants and other staff, but it's not likely that any pilot positions will be reactivated in the short term, Weatherill said.
Round 2 of the Atlantic bubble is expected to begin by April 19, the Council of Atlantic Premiers announced last week.
That means travellers from outside Atlantic Canada will need to self-isolate for 14 days upon arriving in any of the four provinces.
However, Sims said he's hopeful that by late June, a nearly complete vaccine rollout will make it possible to phase out such onerous travel restrictions.
On the question of when international flights will resume, Andrew Gibbons, WestJet's director of government relations, said the federal policy that requires passengers to quarantine at a hotel upon arrival must be eliminated before that can happen.
"The current hotel policy is a deterrent to travel, and it's deliberately designed to dampen demand," he said. "So we have requested that that policy transition as of May 1 to a more traditional regime around testing and reduce quarantine. So that is our request and expectation."