On May 26, IATA welcomed guests to the Calgary Petroleum Club for a breakfast presentation by WestJet, titled “Returning to the Skies”. WestJet’s direct route from Calgary to Dublin, Ireland’s capital city, is among those returning flights.
Chris Avery, Vice President of Commercial Strategy at WestJet, laid out how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the company’s service delivery. The last 2 years have been the most challenging time WestJet and the rest of the travel industry have ever faced. Prior to the pandemic, WestJet employed over 14,000 WestJetters, conducting over 800 daily flights to 100 destinations.
This all changed with the arrival of COVID-19. New safety measures were rapidly introduced, demand for air travel dropped 90%, and difficult staffing decisions had to be taken. Can you believe that, at one of the most challenging periods of the pandemic, WestJet operated only 40 flights per day? This was the devastating reality the company faced.
But WestJet also stepped up during this time, actively helping the Government of Canada in repatriation efforts through scheduled services and charters. In fact, 4,000 Canadians and 75 pets were brought home on WestJet charters that were even sent to 5 locations the company had never served before. They also faced the massive task of parking much of their fleet for long periods of time, which required regular maintenance in different climates. Efforts were also undertaken to retire planes that produced higher levels of carbon emissions as WestJet shifts towards a carbon-neutral future.
Throughout the pandemic, changes had to be made at break-neck pace to adapt to new health and safety measures, as well as travel demand fluctuations, but WestJetters were ready to take on the challenge.
Thankfully, WestJet is in the process of a strong recovery and is back at 9,000 active WestJetters serving customers. They are focused on ensuring that the Canadian market does not lag compared to other jurisdictions, and that Canadians are able to travel safely, comfortably, and with ease. While market experts anticipate domestic travel recovering this summer, international rebounding may take 1-2 years. In the meantime, Alberta will be the first province where WestJet will be operating at near pre-pandemic capacity this summer – truly a feat of excellence!
With 500 daily flights occurring across their network, the IATA could not be more pleased to see WestJet leading the way in the economic recovery. 82 destinations will be served by WestJet this summer, including a 45% increase in transatlantic capacity compared to 2019 which means reaching European destinations such as Dublin is easier than ever. Direct flights to Dublin will also be served out of Toronto and Halifax so that western, central, and eastern Canadians all have the opportunity to explore Ireland.
The IATA would like to thank Chris Avery and his colleagues from WestJet for having joined us at what was a great breakfast event.