WestJet announces further flight reductions through February as Omicron affects staffing levels

Click to play video: 'WestJet announces more flight cancellations amid staffing shortages'
WestJet announces more flight cancellations amid staffing shortages
WATCH: WestJet has announced it’s cancelling more flights amid staffing shortages due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The airline says it’ll consolidate 20 per cent of its scheduled flights in February – Jan 18, 2022

As Omicron continues to spread in Alberta, and across much of the country, one of Canada’s biggest airlines announced further flight reductions.

WestJet said Tuesday morning it will consolidate 20 per cent of its scheduled flights from Feb. 1 through to Feb. 28, 2022.

The latest flight reductions are on top of the approximately 15 per cent consolidation of flights announced by the Calgary-based airline in January.

WestJet said the decision comes as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to affect staffing levels. The airline also cited “the prolonged impact of government barriers on our business.”

“As we continue to navigate the unpredictability of the Omicron variant on our staffing levels along with the ongoing barriers to international travel, we are making every effort to proactively manage our schedule in order to minimize disruption to our guests’ travel plans,” said Harry Taylor, interim WestJet Group president and CEO.

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“To our guests impacted by these additional consolidations, we sincerely apologize for the disruption and appreciate your continued understanding and patience.”

In the next few days, WestJet said affected travellers will be notified of changes to their itineraries via email.

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Travellers are asked to use self-serve options before calling WestJet for assistance. The company said its flexible change and cancel guidelines and schedule change refund policies remain in place.

“We continue to advocate for the elimination of cumbersome travel rules that are unnecessarily impacting Canadians and prolonging the recovery of the travel and tourism sector,” Taylor said in a news release Tuesday morning.

“Canada remains one of the only countries in the world requiring multiple molecular tests for fully-vaccinated travellers — these testing resources should be redeployed to our communities.”

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: WestJet cancels flights because of Omicron-infected staff'
COVID-19: WestJet cancels flights because of Omicron-infected staff

In a letter to Ottawa and the Ontario government Monday, Air Canada, WestJet and Toronto’s Pearson airport called on the federal government to drop its rule requiring vaccinated travellers to get a COVID-19 test upon arrival.

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“As the government has ramped up testing at airports for international arrivals, we have seen frontline workers struggle to get PCR tests and lab processing capacity decrease significantly,” the letter said, citing schools, hospitals and long-term care homes as particular priorities.

“There is a growing discrepancy between resources allocated to asymptomatic travellers and to those who need it most.”

Travellers coming to Canada must present a pre-arrival negative molecular test result for COVID-19. Once they touch down, those coming from any country other than the United States are tested again and must isolate until they get their results. Those coming from the U.S. are tested randomly.

The surging Omicron variant of COVID-19 has led to staffing shortages in multiple industries across Canada in recent weeks.

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With files from The Canadian Press.

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