Canada’s Westjet said it would fly fewer than 100 flights a day in May, as the airline further scales back service in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The schedule calls for 592 flights a week in May, down 4,000 flights from what it flew the last year at the same time.
The revised plan is a sign of how much airlines are having to do to cope with the collapse of air travel due to the pandemic. Westjet was quick to abandon flights to the United States and overseas as countries closed their borders, but has committed to serving all 38 domestic cities where it had a presence before the crisis hit.
The May schedule is down even from April, when 1,425 departures were planned, though in reality hundreds of flights each week have been cancelled this month.
Still, several city pairs have disappeared from the Westjet schedule: nine destinations from Vancouver have lost non-stop service, five from Calgary, 10 from Edmonton, three from Winnipeg, and three from Toronto.
Calgary will drop from 420 weekly departures in the April schedule to 173 in May. Westjet will still be the busiest airline at is main hub, though that dominance is diminished.
Toronto will be the airline’s second-busiest station with 113 departures, followed by Vancouver with 60 weekly departures.
“The overall demand for travel remains fluid during this ongoing pandemic and we continue to evaluate further reductions,” the airline said in a release Monday.
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In contrast, rival Air Canada’s latest schedule for May calls for 880 departures from 30 cities across Canada, a slight increase from what it has been flying in April.
Air Canada will also fly a smattering of flights to the United States, Europe and Asia in May.
Passenger numbers have dropped off following government directives to stay home. Those that do have to fly are being made to wear masks where physical distancing can’t be maintained.
Westjet has responded to the need for physical distancing by blocking out the middle seat on its Boeing 737s, and selling every other seat on its De Havilland Dash-8 aircraft. Already, some of its planned flights in May are showing sold out.
Both airlines have maintained a basic schedule to keep cargo moving across the country and have offered up their aircraft for cargo-only flights and humanitarian charters.
Team 🇨🇦 waved goodbye to our second humanitarian #WestJet flight that repatriated over 100 more #Canadians from #Guyana to #Toronto.— Canada in Guyana (@CanAmbGuyana) April 20, 2020
Once again, special thanks to the @WestJet crew, the Government of Guyana and the staff at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport. pic.twitter.com/FWK8Bcryv3
Westjet will receive an estimated $135 million in federal wage subsidies for its 13,500 employees until June 6.