WestJet issues layoff notices to 1,700 pilots amid dramatic reduction in air travel

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WestJet has sent layoff notices to 1,700 of its pilots amid an unprecedented reduction in air travel due to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The Calgary-based airline said the layoffs affect pilots with WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop, and are effective May 1 or June 1.

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson said the move was only a “last resort”, but noted that the pandemic had had a “colossal” impact on the airline industry.

“These notifications respond to the global COVID-19 crisis that is closing borders, encouraging only essential travel and forcing a dramatic reduction in flights that has resulted in the grounding of almost three-quarters of the WestJet fleet,” the statement said,

“Layoffs, in response to this crisis, have always been a last resort for WestJet. However, the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry is colossal, and WestJet is making difficult but necessary decisions to properly size our airline for weather conditions. These actions will play a crucial role in WestJet’s ability to recover quickly and participate in Canada’s economic recovery. ”

WestJet has stated that it participates in the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program and has stated that pilots will be placed on inactive status and will remain on the payroll while the program is in effect.

In March, WestJet announced that it was cutting approximately half of its 14,000 employees with the loss of 6,900 jobs. But he said last week that he would re-hire nearly 6,400 of these workers using a federal wage subsidy.

He also suspended international flights until at least May.

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