Carrier is slowly reintroducing international service suspended because of the pandemic
Canada’s Westjet Airlines said Monday it would boost its planned flying to 200 daily flights in August, including the reintroduction of service to Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean in its latest update to the summer schedule.
While the schedule is an increase of 10% over what Westjet offered in July, the airline said it is still 75% smaller than in August 2019.
“While an increase in flying is a positive sign, we are prudently monitoring our guests loads to ensure we are managing our airline and the health of our guests and crew responsibly,” said Westjet Chief Operations Officer Arved von zur Muehlen in a statement.
“With the many safeguards and procedures in place, we are certain Canadians can safely resume travel to destinations across our network,” said von zur Muehlen,. “We continue to adapt our schedule to meet the needs of our guests and through our continued investments economies can begin to recover with the support of domestic tourism driven by air travel.”
The airline planned to expand its service to the United States reintroducing service from Toronto and Vancouver to five major U.S. destinations, despite ongoing travel restrictions and an explosion in COVID cases in some states. While Canadians can fly into the U.S., they must quarantine for 14 days when they get home. And non-essential travel outside the country is still discouraged by the federal government. It will also add weekly fligh to Montego Bay, Jamaica and Cancun, Mexico starting July 16.
Westjet plans also to restart Boeing 787 Dreamliner service to London-Gatwick (three times a week) and Paris (twice a week) from its Calgary hub starting August 20. Europe recently decided to open its borders to Canadians, though the same advice and quarantines apply to Canadians coming home.
The airline indicated travel continued to be hampered by inter-provincial restrictions put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19. The strongest restriction surrounds the Atlantic provinces where residents are free to travel within the four provinces without restriction, but quarantine periods or, in the case of Prince Edward Island, an outright ban are still placed on anyone coming from west of the Quebec-New Brunswick border.
“The patchwork of domestic travel restrictions and quarantine periods that are currently in place within our own borders are severely limiting Canada’s economic recovery and putting hundreds of thousands of jobs in our critical industry at risk,” said von zur Muehlen. “We must standardize intra-provincial travel advice to ensure Canadians can move safely and freely across our country.”
Westjet and rival Air Canada have gone to great lengths to reassure nervous passengers about the cleanliness of their aircraft. Both airlines – and the airports they serve – have stepped up cleaning measures and required masks and temperature checks for passengers.
Both airlines, however, came under fire in early July when they abandoned a policy, implemented at the outset of the pandemic, of blocking the middle seat to ensure physical distancing. The airlines say the measure is no longer necessary given the range of other actions being taken to keep the travelling public safe.
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