New Canadian Covid-19 test requirement prompts WestJet to slash capacity

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WestJet is cutting nearly a third of its planned capacity for February and March in light of stricter entry requirements for Canada announced in recent weeks.

The cuts include more than 230 weekly flights, 160 of them domestic. WestJet is suspending 11 routes: Edmonton to each Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and Phoenix; Vancouver to those same three cities as well as Cabo, Los Angeles and Palm Springs; and Calgary to both Las Vegas and Orlando. The carrier also announced a seasonal suspension to 13 international destinations, largely in the Caribbean and Central America but also including London Gatwick.

After the cuts, international capacity will be down 93% year over year to only five daily flights, and total capacity will be down 80% year over year to 150 daily flights. That will mark WestJet's lowest capacity levels in nearly two decades.

Additionally, WestJet is enacting temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours, cutting the equivalent of 1,000 employees.

As of this week, Canada is requiring all inbound passengers age five and older to show proof of a negative Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction test taken within 72 hours of their departure. Even with a negative test, passengers still will be required to quarantine for 14 days after arrival and could be placed in federal quarantine facilities if their own quarantine arrangements are not acceptable.

After the new testing requirements were announced on Dec. 31, WestJet saw "significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations," according to WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims.

"We have advocated over the past 10 months for a coordinated testing regime on Canadian soil, but this hasty new measure is causing Canadian travelers unnecessary stress and confusion and may make travel unaffordable, unfeasible and inaccessible for Canadians for years to come," Sims said in a statement.

A WestJet spokesperson said the capacity cuts would not have an impact on its return-to-service plans announced earlier this week for Boeing 737 Max aircraft.

Source: Business Travel News

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