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WestJet has confirmed it is canceling 15 737 Max aircraft from its initial order from Boeing, as the airline continues to struggle from the downturn in air travel caused by COVID-19. WestJet still has 27 Max planes on order, as the airline said it “remains committed to our 737 Max aircraft.”
WestJet was the first Canadian airline to return the 737 Max to service on Jan. 21, 2021, after Canada cleared the Max to return to Canadian airspace following a nearly two-year grounding of the type. The Calgary-based airline currently has 14 737 Max 8 aircraft in its fleet, and has so far returned three of those planes to service. WestJet is operating the Max on three weekly round trip flights between Calgary and Toronto.
Since the pandemic began, WestJet has cut thousands of jobs and slashed domestic routes, including in Atlantic Canada and Quebec City, and has suspended nearly a dozen international routes. While air travel has seen a drastic decrease since the start of the pandemic, WestJet said it “saw significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations” following the Canadian government’s Dec. 31 announcement that all air passengers over the age of five must test negative for COVID-19 before traveling from another country to Canada.
The Canadian government has since also introduced tougher restrictions, requiring travelers entering Canada to quarantine in a designated hotel for three days while awaiting a mandatory COVID-19 test result. The cost, estimated to be over $2,000, is at the traveler’s expense.
It has been over four months since the government said it is developing an aid package for airlines, and negotiations are still ongoing. However, in order to receive the package of assistance, airlines are required to meet a list of stipulations — including issuing refunds to passengers who had to cancel trips due to COVID.
There have been recent hints that a bailout package could be coming soon, as Air Canada recently agreed to refund its passengers — the last Canadian airline to do so. In early March, CBC reported that the bailout package could surpass $7 billion.