WestJet Airlines has announced that about half of its employees will be leaving the company, which employs around 14,000 people in total. For some of the 6,900 employees, the leave will only be temporary, according to Global News.
Included in the departures are resignations, early retirements and both voluntary and involuntary leaves. WestJet asked its employees to choose between these options or reduced hours or pay, according to CEO Ed Sims.
In a statement on Tuesday, Sims said “This is devastating news for all WestJetters.”
“The fact that we avoided a potentially worse outcome is testament to the spirit and selfless attitude demonstrated by our people, who have enabled WestJet to continue operating with a collective remaining workforce of 7,100.”
The departures will take place on separate dates—the first being Wednesday and the other on April 1.
Sims posted an announcement on YouTube noting that 120 of WestJet’s aircraft have been grounded.
“We’re now operating at the same size we were back in 2003,” he said. “We simply do not have enough demand to support our workforce at our current numbers.”
The company has issued a 30 day cancellation on international flights. Captain Michael McKay, of the Air Canada Pilots Association, mentioned that the union has made an agreement to place up to 600 pilots on furlough.
The pilots agreed to receive decreased pay as well as “simplified contract language” to allow for earlier retirement.
“Like all Canadians, the more than 4,400 pilots of Air Canada and Air Canada Rouge have been deeply affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, personally and professionally, with the precipitous drop in passenger demand and the challenging operating environment,” said McKay.
The rest of the travel industry continues to struggle as borders remain closed.
An announcement was made by Air Canada last week that it will be suspending flights to the US and overseas. All flights are being suspended by Transat AT Inc. and Porter Airlines.
On Tuesday the International Air Transport Association director general Alexandre de Juniac said, “Airlines are fighting for survival in every corner of the world.”
“Travel restrictions and evaporating demand mean that, aside from cargo, there is almost no passenger business. For airlines, it’s apocalypse now.”
“Without immediate government relief measures, there will not be an industry left standing,” said de Juniac, who added that about $200 billion in relief is needed.
He noted that China, Australia and Sweden will all be receiving aid packages, including loans and delayed fee payments.