The CEO of WestJet has announced that the Calgary-based airline may never return to the size it was before the COVID-19 pandemic set in.
In a new interview with Postmedia on Tuesday (May 6th), WestJet CEO Ed Sims said the COVID-19 crisis has forced the carrier to make some tough decisions, such as what the size of its fleet may look like in the coming years.
The COVID-19 crisis has plummeted the demand for air travel as government-imposed restrictions have banned all non-essential travel in an effort to halt the spread of the virus.
“We might not be our previous size for a long time, if ever,” Sims said, as reported by the Calgary Herald. “We just might not get back there.”
Prior to the pandemic, WestJet reportedly had 14,000 employees and flew to more than 100 destinations in 24 countries.
In the interview, Sims said he had “unequivocal” confidence that WestJet will survive the coronavirus crisis.
In April, WestJet removed some 600 daily flights from its schedule between May 5th and June 4th due to “significantly reduced guest demand” during the pandemic. That amounts to around 18,000 trips in total.
All of WestJet's international flights, including to the U.S., remain suspended through June 4th, the carrier said.
Sims was quoted as saying that he has spoken with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who assured the CEO that his government is committed to WestJet’s long-term survival.
“I take a lot of comfort and solace from that statement,” Sims was quoted as saying.
Before the COVID-19 crisis hit, WestJet had spent a considerable amount of time and resources expanding its product – notably, with the introduction of its Boeing Dreamliners, launched last year, and plans to fly those airplanes on transatlantic routes to London-Gatwick, Paris, Dublin and Rome.
Of WestJet’s 185 aircraft, 131 have been parked and more than half of its workers have been temporarily furloughed due to lost revenue.
To this, Sims called the situation “utterly disheartening and dispiriting.”
“It’s very hard to see something that you’ve built so carefully and thoughtfully over the last four or five years dismantled,” he was quoted as saying.
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