THUNDER BAY – The transportation sector has been hit especially hard by the Coronavirus pandemic. Travel numbers on airlines, trains, and buses are down drastically. Even as the economy starts to open up, it is likely that with social distancing requirements it is going to be a long road back for the transportation sector.
The impact has resulted in changes for WestJet.
Today the company announced organizational changes that will see the company consolidate call center activity in Alberta, contract out airport operations in all domestic airports outside of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto, and strategically restructure its office and management staff. The moves are aimed at streamlining WestJet for a competitive future following the COVID-19 crisis.
Employees at the Thunder Bay International Airport will be laid-off as a result of the changes announced today. There will be thirty-one employees impacted by the decision.
WestJet plans to contract the services out, according to a company spokesperson. The timeline for these changes is expected to be over the next year.
WestJet President and CEO, Ed Sims, says, “Throughout the course of the biggest crisis in the history of aviation, WestJet has made many difficult, but essential, decisions to future-proof our business. Today’s announcement regarding these strategic but unavoidable changes will allow us to provide security to our remaining 10,000 WestJetters, and to carry on the work of transforming our business. WestJet will once again serve the needs of Canadian travelers with low fares and award-winning service levels tomorrow and years from now.”
Overall, 3,333 employees across the country will be affected. As WestJet works to select new airport service partners, the airline will seek out preferential employment opportunities for as many of the airport roles as possible.
The COVID-19 crisis hit WestJet and the global aviation industry with devastating force. Since the beginning of March, guest traffic has dropped in response to virus fears and travel advisories that halted almost all but essential travel. To mitigate the impact on its workforce, WestJet implemented immediate cost-cutting measures including releasing a majority of outside contractors, instituting a hiring freeze, stopping all non-essential travel and training, suspending any internal role movements and salary adjustments, cutting executive, vice-president and director salaries and pausing more than 75 percent of its capital projects.
WestJet has continued to operate service to all 38 year-round domestic airports during the pandemic to ensure essential lifelines for travel and cargo remained open but overall, the airline’s scheduled operations have been reduced by more than 90 percent year over year.
Air Canada, Greyhound, Kasper Transportation, Bearskin Airlines have all seen passenger numbers fall below volumes to maintain flights and trips.
Air Canada has projected losses in the billions of dollars.