WestJet Airlines Ltd. is increasing customer surcharges on its domestic flights after the country's air traffic control operator NAV Canada raised service rates this month, the company announced on Tuesday. 

WestJet said customers can expect an increase of between $4 to $7 after NAV Canada decided to go through with a 29.5-per-cent increase to the rates it charges airlines for its air traffic services.

NAV Canada first proposed the rate increase in May to cope with the flight demand fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent hit to revenue and confirmed it would go through with the changes in early August. WestJet said it is investigating an appeal of the rate increase.

In a release, WestJet chief executive officer Ed Sims said he was concerned any increase in fees could hamper a recovery in air travel demand which could exacerbate both NAV Canada and his airline’s revenue problems.

"We are deeply concerned the NAV Canada rate increase will lead to a further reduction in the number of travellers," Sims said. 

"We are sympathetic to their situation, like ours, where a lack of sector-specific federal support has hindered their ability to recover. Burdening travellers who have been severely impacted by this pandemic with incremental costs will only serve to undermine Canada's economic recovery."

WestJet has gradually been ramping up its service as COVID-19 cases in the country ease, but its flight schedule last month was roughly 25 per cent of the traffic it did a year ago. WestJet said the recovery in air travel demand is also being hit by what it described in early July as a “patchwork of domestic travel restrictions.”  

The company and its peers have also been appealing for sector-specific relief from the federal government in order to sustain the industry, a call that the International Air Transport Association echoed in a separate release Tuesday. In the release, IATA director general and chief executive officer Alexandre de Juniac said there must be a balance between combating the spread of the virus and not choking out a global economic recovery.

“It’s time for governments to work together to implement measures that will enable economic and social life to resume, while controlling the spread of the virus,” he said.

“There is much at stake and no time to lose.”