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WestJet says it ‘proactively’ reduced its summer flight plans

WestJet says it will have fewer flights this summer compared to July 2019, in an effort to provide “stable operations” as soaring travel demand in Canada outpaces airport staffing capabilities. 

Country’s 2nd largest airline says it will fly some 25% fewer daily flights this summer.

WestJet says it will have fewer flights this summer compared to July 2019, in an effort to provide “stable operations” as soaring travel demand in Canada outpaces airport staffing capabilities.

That means the country’s second-largest airline will fly about 530 flights a day this summer instead of the more than 700 of two years ago — 25 per cent less — according a statement released on Thursday.

The airline had said earlier this year it aimed to restore “94 per cent of its pre-pandemic routes with more than 600 daily departures network wide” this summer.

But CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech now says the Calgary-based airline made a series of “proactive” schedule reductions between March and May.

He says Toronto saw the bulk of the cuts, as WestJet anticipated snarls and delays at Canada’s biggest airport this summer. Toronto’s Pearson airport will see 32 per cent fewer flights in and out.

The entire travel industry has been struggling to ramp back up to meet surging demand in the wake of the removal of COVID-19 public health restrictions. Most domestic flights to Canada’s busiest airports were delayed or cancelled over the past week.

Some of Canada’s major airports have seen a surge in travellers and, as a result, longer than normal wait times — a problem the aviation industry has blamed on a shortage of federal security and customs officers.

John Gradek, a lecturer in McGill University’s aviation management program, told CBC’s Canada Tonight that airlines are also partly to blame for booking too many flights before enough airport staff were hired to handle the “tsunami of passengers” looking to fly.

“We all knew this was going to happen,” Gradek said. The airlines flew their airplanes, they fully booked their airplanes, passengers showed up at the airport and now we’re stuck in a situation where the people and the facilities can’t handle that volume.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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