Permanent WestJet layoffs include 20 Charlottetown employees

Twenty WestJet employees at Charlottetown airport are included in the permanent layoffs announced Wednesday, a company spokesperson said. 

'We are now at the bottom and have a long and arduous climb out'

Overall, 3,333 employees in Canada will be affected. (Al McCormick/CBC)

Twenty WestJet employees at Charlottetown airport are included in the permanent layoffs announced Wednesday, a company spokesperson said. 

Overall, 3,333 employees across Canada will be affected. The company says since March, guest traffic has dropped because of fears around the pandemic as well as travel restrictions that have stopped most non-essential travel. 

"Throughout the course of the biggest crisis in the history of aviation, WestJet has made many difficult, but essential decisions to future-proof our business," said Ed Sims, WestJet president and CEO in a news release.

Sims said the changes will help "provide security to our remaining 10,000 WestJetters." 

The company will restructure its office and management staff, consolidate call centre activity in Alberta and contract out operations in all of its Canadian airports except Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto. 

WestJet said operations have been reduced by more than 90 per cent year-over-year because of COVID-19 despite it continuing to operate in all 38 year-round domestic airports.

"I have been describing this experience to our own WestJetters as a valley where we are now at the bottom and have a long and arduous climb out," said Sims in a YouTube video announcing the changes.

"The reality in which we find ourselves requires difficult and often painful decisions."   

'Last resort'

WestJet said it has taken steps to reduce the impact of the pandemic by imposing a hiring freeze, stopping all non-essential travel and training, suspending internal role movements and salary adjustments. The company said it has also cut executive, vice-president and director salaries and is pausing more than 75 per cent of its capital projects. 

"Reducing WestJetter roles has always been a last resort," said Sims. "If there were other viable options open to us we would be taking them."

WestJet will continue to operate flights twice a week between Charlottetown and Toronto.

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