WestJet lays off 3,333 in latest round of aviation job cuts
WestJet Airlines Ltd. is laying off 3,333 staff in a move aimed at streamlining its business amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the latest such workforce reduction for the country's beleaguered airline industry.
WestJet said the layoffs will impact the company's call center staff as well as its office and management workforce. It will also contract out its domestic airport operations with the exception of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.
"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," said Ed Sims, WestJet’s chief executive officer, in a statement on Wednesday.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, WestJet has laid off thousands of staff amid a 90 per cent plunge in passenger traffic. The Calgary-based company announced in March it would lay off 6,900 staff, although the federal wage subsidy program that was announced in April brought most of that staff back to work. WestJet later said it would lay off 1,700 pilots while moving 3,000 more employees to its inactive workforce in May. A subsequent agreement with the union allowed WestJet to bring back 1,000 of those pilots.
Of WestJet’s 10,000 employees, 4,500 are considered active, according to a spokesperson for the airline.
Meanwhile, Air Canada laid off between 50 and 60 per cent of its workforce — or around 20,000 people — in May due to what the company called a sustained decline in passenger traffic. Porter Airlines said it temporarily laid off the majority of its 1,500-person workforce in March, although the wage subsidy program would bring back "hundreds" of its staff to work. Transat A.T. and Sunwing Airlines Inc. have also announced substantial workforce reductions.
According to Statistics Canada, there were about 61,000 people working in the Canadian airline industry as of 2017, the latest year that data was available. Collectively, the industry has now laid off nearly half of its entire workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been a challenging time in the industry as a whole," said Mark Williams, president of Sunwing Airlines, during an interview with BNN Bloomberg on Wednesday.
WestJet said last month it plans to review the federal government's aid program for large businesses.
"The closure of borders and a reduction of almost 90 percent of our passenger traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted the financial welfare of our airline," the company said at the time.