As part of “organizational changes to secure its future,” Calgary-based airline WestJet will be laying off more than 3,300 of its employees due to losses incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Throughout the course of the biggest crisis in the history of aviation, WestJet has made many difficult, but essential, decisions to future-proof our business,” CEO and President of WestJet, Ed Sims, said in a press release. “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.”
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In a video statement, Sims described this announcement as “the toughest of days.”
As the airline continues to work and collaborate with new airport partners, the company says it will do its best to seek “preferential employment opportunities” for as many of these workers as possible by placing them in airport roles.
The effect of the coronavirus pandemic on WestJet has been substantial, with passenger traffic dropping significantly since March due to customer concerns surrounding virus transmissions and the various travel restrictions around the world put in place to ensure the health and safety of international residents. These protocols all but put an end to any sort of non-essential travel.
To alleviate the impact on its personnel, WestJet issued a variety of cost-cutting measures, including instituting a hiring freeze and halting travel and training considered inessential. It also rolled out payment adjustments that cut the salaries of executive, vice-president, and director roles.
As well, the company will be consolidating its call centre activity in Alberta and contracting out airport operations for all domestic airports, except for Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Toronto. It is also restructuring its office and management staff.
“The moves are aimed at streamlining WestJet for a competitive future following the COVID-19 crisis,” the release states.