Air Canada

Canadian aviation layoffs surpass 20,000


The number of layoffs announced in the Canadian aviation industry passed a grim milestone this week – 20,798 people furloughed from their jobs keeping Canada moving.

The tally – compiled by Western Aviation News based on publicly-available data – paints a grim picture of an industry that is forecast to lose more than $250 billion in revenue world-wide as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The emerging picture is likely to be far worse, with some airlines not reporting their job cuts and airports yet to announce measures they’ll take to deal with the cratering of airline demand.

The numbers also don’t include those who help get passengers on their way – store clerks, baggage handlers, refuellers, security personnel, parking attendants, restaurant staff, porters, customer information representatives, and maintenance workers – among others.

The latest blow came Tuesday when Westjet announced it would cut 6,900 from its 14-thousand strong workforce, leaving it half the size it was Monday.

Westjet is the hardest-hit airline, followed by Air Canada, which laid off 5,749 pilots and flight attendants, as it unveiled this week its capacity would be reduced by 80% during the month of April.

Other airlines – such as Transat (3,600 layoffs), Porter (1,500), Sunwing (1,490), and Pacific Coastal (an estimated 250 people) – have announced the virtual shutdowns of their airlines, meaning all but a handful of staff have been grounded.

Passengers heeding government warnings to stay home have abandoned aviation as never before. The Thunder Bay airport reported Tuesday its passenger load had fallen off 90% since the outbreak, and largely empty passenger terminals have become the norm.

And small wonder, Westjet updated its list Tuesday of flights where passengers tested positive for COVID-19, adding 19 more flights where passengers have been warned they were aboard with a person who later tested positive for the virus.

Because of Westjet’s heavy reliance on its Calgary hub, 23 of the 40 affected flights passed through Alberta’s largest city.