Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada’s major airlines will suspend service to all Caribbean destinations and Mexico starting this Sunday until April 30 as more infectious variants of COVID-19 continue to spread.
All international passenger flights must land at only four airports in Vancouver, Toronto, Calgary and Montreal.
“The government asked, and we agreed,” WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims said in a statement Friday.
“While we know that air travel is responsible for less than two per cent of cases since the start of the crisis, and even less today, we recognize the Government of Canada’s ask is a precautionary measure.”
The Calgary-based company said it is working to bring back its Canadian customers currently in Mexico and the Caribbean over the next two weeks.
“Through consultation we have established an approach that will allow us to achieve an orderly reduction in service to these destinations that minimizes the impact on our customers and will support important public health goals to manage COVID-19,” Air Canada CEO Calin Rovinescu said in a statement.
The impact of the flight suspensions on Air Canada’s cash burn “is not material” given already-low levels of passenger traffic, he added.
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra says the federal government is developing an assistance package for Canadian airlines, airports and the aerospace industry, but did not provide specifics.
“Our government understands that a strong air sector is vital for Canada’s economy and the well-being of Canadians,” Alghabra said during a press conference Friday.
“With passenger levels still down almost 90 per cent, airlines have been forced to take drastic measures to remain viable. The sector cannot respond to these challenges on its own.”
The move to halt flights to sun destinations comes after weeks of Trudeau urging Canadians not to take any non-essential trips outside the country and warning the government could impose restrictions at any time.
Non-essential travel into Canada by most foreign nationals has been banned since the pandemic first began sweeping across the country last March.
Anyone entering the country has been required to self-quarantine for two weeks.
—With files from The Canadian PressView link »