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WestJet puts 1,000 workers on leave, citing government COVID-19 test rules


WestJet says it will cut about 30 per cent of its capacity for February and March and pull 160 domestic departures from its schedule. (Photo courtesy WestJet)

CALGARY — WestJet Airlines Ltd. says about 1,000 employees will be furloughed, temporarily laid off, put on unpaid leave or have their hours cut in the wake of new travel rules from the federal government.

The airline also says it will cut about 30 per cent of its capacity for February and March and pull 160 domestic departures from its schedule.

WestJet chief executive Ed Sims says the federal government’s COVID-19 testing policy led to unprecedented travel cancellations, leaving the company with no other option but to place a large number of employees on leave.

The federal government said last week that Canada-bound air passengers would have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test result in order to board their flight — a requirement that took effect yesterday.

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WestJet, which was bought by Onex Corp. in 2019, was among several airlines that had unsuccessfully asked Ottawa for an 11-day extension to implement the new rules.

In October, WestJet suspended service to four Atlantic Canada cities and laid off 100 corporate employees, after laying off 4,000 workers since the pandemic began.

Sims said in a statement on Friday that other WestJet workers will also see an impact on their paychecks, calling the workforce cuts a “cruel outcome for loyal and hardworking staff who have been diligently working through the pandemic.”

Travel industry ‘in tailspin’ as federal government adopts new COVID-19 test rules