WestJet temporarily suspends more routes as ‘capacity constraints’ continue

Avatar for Skies MagazineBy Skies Magazine | February 2, 2023

Estimated reading time 4 minutes, 20 seconds.

WestJet on Jan. 30 confirmed in a press release that it is temporarily suspending transatlantic service between Halifax and Europe this summer, as part of its strategy to “manage and recover its network in response to capacity constraints impacting the aviation ecosystem.”

The Calgary-based carrier has already suspended service to Europe from Toronto and Vancouver as of December 2022. However, WestJet only just announced service between Toronto and Edinburgh last June, and had just brought back flights from Halifax to Dublin, London, Glasgow, and Paris in May.  

According to a CBC report, a WestJet spokesperson said the decision to suspend the various transatlantic routes is due to “compounding factors such as staffing levels across the industry,” as well as inflation.

WestJet 787 Dreamliner. Galen Burrows Photo

Other Canadian airlines have recently cited a pilot shortage as part of the reason for route cancelations. Sunwing in late January announced it is canceling almost all flights out of Regina, Saskatchewan, to various sun destinations as of Feb. 4. According to the airline, the decision was “necessary due to operational and business constraints.”

Sunwing also put blame on a pilot shortage for the series of flight cancelations and delays that occurred over the recent holiday season.

Some aviation experts say a pilot shortage in Canada could be made worse by the rapid growth of new ultra-low-cost carriers, like Flair, which is aiming to get to 50 aircraft by the 2025 timeframe — a plan that would require hundreds of pilots.

Toronto-based Porter Airlines also has big plans for growth, having ordered up to 100 new Embraer E195-E2 aircraft (50 firm commitments and 50 purchase rights). Porter has already taken delivery of the first five of 50 new aircraft — with the rest scheduled to be delivered over the next two years — and has begun passenger service with the new planes.

As for WestJet, the airline stated that it plans to “evaluate the return of transatlantic service in 2024.”

“We understand this is disappointing news for our guests,” said John Weatherill, WestJet Group executive VP and CCO. “As we continue to responsibly balance our schedule alongside operational requirements, capacity constraints, and the deployment of our aircraft across Canada, we are making these difficult decisions now to enable us to re-position our investments to best serve the province for years to come.”

WestJet previously announced the suspension of several domestic routes — particularly in Eastern Canada — for the winter season, and several of those suspensions affect Halifax. Service between Halifax and Montreal was suspended as of Oct. 28; Halifax and Sydney, Nova Scotia, as of Nov. 15; Halifax and Ottawa as of Jan. 8; and Halifax and St. John’s, Newfoundland, as of Jan. 10.

Those suspensions were part of the airline’s strategy to focus on flying to sun and leisure destinations, “as well as enhanced connections to Western Canada.”

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