Canada’s WestJet will suspend international operations starting 22 March as the coronavirus prompts governments to close borders and impose other measures to stop the spread of the virus.
“Today, Prime Minister Trudeau made an explicit declaration to all Canadians abroad that it is time to come home,” writes chief executive Ed Sims in a note on 16 March. “Based on this statement and the recommendations to Canadians to control the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19, we have made impactful decisions related to our operations.”
The Calgary-based airline will suspend all international flights – including “transborder” flights to the USA, Mexico, the Carribbean and Europe – for 30 days starting on 22 March, the airline says. Domestic operations will be cut 50% during that time.
“To be clear, this means our final commercially scheduled flights from international and transborder destinations will launch on Sunday night by 11:59 pm local time. After that, we will be operating rescue and repatriation flights with our partners. As of tonight, international and transborder tickets are no longer available for sale during this 30-day period,” Sims says.
Sims says the airline will also lower fares, in order to make it easier to repatriate Canadians abroad.
On Monday, Canada’s flag carrier and WestJet’s biggest competitor Air Canada retracted financial guidance for 2020 and 2021, cut operations 50% and asked the Canadian government to help with financial losses it expects to suffer in the coming months.