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Coronavirus pandemic: WestJet suspending international travel

Travelers arrive at the Calgary Airport in Calgary on May 10, 2018.
Travelers arrive at the Calgary Airport in Calgary on May 10, 2018. The Canadian Press

One of Canada’s biggest airlines is suspending international flights amidst a global effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

In a statement on its website late Monday evening, WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims said the airline would be suspending commercial international and trans-border flights for 30 days.

READ MORE: Calgary International 1 of 4 Canadian airports to accept international flights during COVID-19 pandemic

“To be clear, this means our final commercially scheduled flights from international and trans-border destinations will launch on Sunday night by 11:59 p.m. local time; after that, we will be operating rescue and repatriation flights in partnership with the Canadian government,” Sims said.

“As of tonight, international and trans-border tickets are no longer available for sale during this 30 day period.”

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As of Wednesday, WestJet will also suspend the sale of outbound international tickets until Sunday, March 22 at 11:59 p.m. MT.

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“We are no longer sending Canadians out of the country and can instead focus on bringing them home,” Sims said.

WestJet will also be lowering ticket prices for any remaining seats into Canada for those trying to get home.

The airline’s domestic flight schedule is being reduced by 50 per cent for the next 30 days, Sims said.

“While this is a difficult time, we now have the responsibility as a Canadian airline to bring our citizens home.”

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The move by WestJet comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that only four airports across the country would be accepting international flights as of Wednesday — one of which is YYC Calgary International Airport.

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READ MORE: Trudeau closes Canadian borders to most foreign travellers amid coronavirus outbreak

The “exceptional measures” came as part of a widespread closure of Canadian borders to most foreign travellers as a way to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“Based on [Trudeau’s] statement and the recommendations to Canadians to control the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, we have made impactful decisions related to our operations,” WestJet said.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Sunwing suspends outgoing flights to focus on bringing Canadians home