WestJet cuts back on domestic flights while ramping up repatriation efforts

WestJet is significantly reducing its number of flights within Canada, but also ramping up its schedule of flights to the United States, Caribbean and Central America in an attempt to get Canadians home.

The Calgary-based airline says it is reducing the number of flights it offers within Canada by about half because the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically reduced the demand for air travel. But the airline says it is nonetheless committed to “keeping critical economic lifelines open for the 38 communities we serve across Canada.”

Most of the changes involve the airline making fewer flights between Canadian destinations, as opposed to complete cancellations. The airline has a complete list of its schedule adjustments on its website here.

Even as the airline is scaling back its domestic travel schedule, it is beefing up its attempts to get Canadians who are stranded abroad during the unfolding health crisis home. CBC News has reported extensively on Canadians who are struggling to find their way home from places such as Morocco, Chile, Honduras, Ecuador and elsewhere because border shutdowns and flight cancellations have left them in the lurch. 

Starting on Monday and for the two days that follow, the airline says it will “operate 34 repatriation flights to international and transborder destinations to ensure the safe return of WestJet guests and Canadians who remain abroad.”

“These new flights are in addition to the 10 flights that WestJet has operated this week after the prime minister announced it was time to come home. WestJet will continue to add flights as the need is identified,” the airline said.

All flights will depart Canada as empty planes and return with as many people as possible. All routes are from destinations in the U.S., Central America and Caribbean, including Hawaii, Florida, Arizona, Bahamas, Mexico, Cuba, Barbados, Costa Rica, Jamaica, St. Martin, Belize and Aruba.

Eight of the planned extra flights are already full, the airline says. A complete list of repatriation flights can be found here.

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