Calgary

WestJet to suspend international flights

WestJet Airlines says it will suspend all international flights, including to the U.S., for 30 days, beginning this Sunday March 22.

Airline will focus on rescue flights in partnership with Canada's government

WestJet is suspending all international flights for 30 days, effective March 22. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

WestJet Airlines says it will suspend all international flights — including to the U.S — for 30 days, beginning this Sunday March 22.

The final commercially-scheduled, Canada-bound flights taking off from international destinations will leave by 11:59 p.m., local time, that night. After that, the airline said it will operate rescue and repatriation flights in partnership with the Canadian government.

As of Monday night, when the announcement was made, tickets were no longer available for sale for the 30-day period after March 22.

The Calgary-based airline said the goal is to stop sending Canadians out of the country and focus on bringing them home.

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The decision came in response to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Monday appeal to Canadians overseas to return home. Over the weekend, Global Affairs Canada also urged Canadians abroad to return while they have the chance because countries around the world are imposing ever-tighter travel restrictions.

WestJet said it's also lowering prices on remaining seats on flights into Canada, and is reducing its domestic flight schedule by 50 per cent.

"While this is a difficult time, we now have the responsibility as a Canadian airline to bring our citizens home," CEO Ed Sims said in the statement. 

WestJet said Canadians abroad who plan to return home after March 22 should look to see if they can find an earlier return flight. If not, they should visit the Canadian government's website to register for possible repatriation.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic impact on airlines' business worldwide. The union representing WestJet flight attendants cautioned last week that it could be expecting layoffs of more than 50 per cent of its staff. 

with files from The Canadian Press

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