Flight cancelations continue to be a nightmare across the United States, as passengers return this week from their holiday travels. This past Sunday there were over 2,700 flight cancelations, and another 1,800 the following day — affecting every single US airline.
But the United States is not the only country that is being rocked from the rise in Covid-19 cases and inclement weather from winter storms — airlines across Canada are also scrambling to accommodate passengers who are facing lengthy delays and changes to their travel plans.
WestJet Cancels Flights Due To Staff Shortage
WestJet, a Canadian low-cost carrier based in Calgary, have also been dealing with similar nightmares to their US counterparts. The majority of WestJet’s flights are domestic, though they also serve many cities around the United States, Mexico, the Caribbean, and even Europe. This past week the airline has seen a 35% rise in active Covid-19 cases among their staff, with over 181 employees currently positive with the virus. This alone has directly affected their planned routes and scheduling. This past Thursday WestJet was forced to cancel 74 of its scheduled 466 flights for the day.
In a statement last week, WestJet’s interim chief executive Harry Taylor discussed the challenges and the impact the Omicron variant has already had on their scheduled flights.
“Despite all contingency planning, in addition to hiring back thousands of WestJetters to safely support peak operations, we find ourselves no longer able to predictably resource our planned schedule due to Omicron impact.” In what Taylor calls a “last resort”, WestJet will begin to drastically reduce their usual scheduled 450 flights per day, removing roughly 15% of their flights from their schedule each day, a move that will last at least until January 31st.
The airline is also calling on Canada to follow the guidance of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which last Monday changed the isolation time for a person not displaying any symptoms — bringing it down to five days from the original ten. WestJet is hoping that with this change, it would allow their staff to return to work faster, improving their flight woes and delays.
For any flight cancellations, WestJet plans to notify passengers as soon as possible. Any WestJet initiated cancellation or delay where a change was greater than ninety minutes or where one or more stops were added, customers are eligible for a full refund.
What About The Other Canadian Airlines?
WestJet is not the only Canadian based airline being hit with challenges these past few weeks. The flag carrier and largest airline for the country, Air Canada, which serves cities around the globe has also been facing delays and cancellations. Last Thursday, Air Canada canceled 76 of its 905 scheduled flights. Though, according to Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah, their cancellations are NOT due to Covid-19, but because of inclement weather and wintery conditions causing flight disruptions.
Meanwhile, other Canadian airlines such as Flair Airlines, Air Transat, and Porter Airlines have also experienced their own share of problems and tribulations, though attributing them largely due to weather and aircraft maintenance. Only Flair Airlines admitted that a small number of their crew has confirmed cases of Covid-19, but as of now, this has not affected the airlines ability to staff flights.
Currently, unlike the United States, the Canadian government requires airline employees and passengers aged twelve and over departing from Canada’s airports to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
With Covid cases climbing in Canada to an all time pandemic high at nearly 40,000 cases a day, passengers should be prepared for possible changes in their flights and planned schedules.
Before you head to the airport, be sure to check with your airline on the status of your flight.
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