WestJet has announced a significant reduction in its flight capacity as the introduction of new COVID-19 testing requirements for all arrivals to Canada continues to wreak havoc on the air travel industry.
The decision by WestJet to slash its operations follows a sharp fall in new bookings and an increase in cancellations since the Canadian government announced that all arrivals by air to the country would require proof of a negative COVID-19 test to gain entry from January 7. This has dealt a blow to Canadian travelers hoping to take international vacations over the coming months.
Travelers Facing Fewer Flight Options In The Short-Term
WestJet has taken the decision to reduce its flight operations as the new testing requirement causes significant disruption to the airline industry. In a statement issued on Friday 8 January Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO, strongly criticized the new testing policy, saying that the government’s announcement on December 31 led to “significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations”.
In response, the airline has been forced to reduce its operations considerably, removing 30% of its planned flight capacity for February and March, representing an 80% reduction in capacity compared to the same period in 2019. While Canadian travelers will already be deterred from vacationing in the short-term, this will nonetheless reduce flight options available to them over the coming months.
More than 230 weekly departures by WestJet will be affected by the move, with the following international flight routes between Canada and destinations in the US and Mexico being suspended:
- Edmonton – Cancun
- Edmonton – Puerto Vallarta
- Edmonton – Phoenix
- Vancouver – Cancun
- Vancouver – Phoenix
- Vancouver – Puerto Vallarta
- Vancouver – Cabo
- Vancouver – Los Angeles
- Vancouver – Palm Springs
- Calgary – Las Vegas
- Calgary – Orlando
In addition, there will be a seasonal suspension of flights to 13 international destinations:
- Huatulco (Mexico)
- Ixtapa (Mexico)
- London Gatwick (UK)
- Mazatlán (Mexico)
- Nassau (Bahamas)
- Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago)
- San Jose (Costa Rica)
- Tampa (USA)
- Turks and Caicos
The suspended routes include a number of popular winter sun destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, making it much more difficult for Canadian sun-seekers to plan trips abroad over the coming months. It will also remove a popular flight connection to the UK, which is continuing to struggle with a surge in cases amid a new strain of the COVID-19 virus.
WestJet’s decision adds a further barrier to those hoping to travel abroad over the coming months, coming on top of the new requirement to present proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test before boarding a flight to Canada, and the existing requirement to self-isolate for 14 days on return to the country.
Importantly, these measures are in effect for Canadian citizens as well as non-resident arrivals, and therefore make it very difficult for most Canadians to plan vacations abroad, with the introduction of new requirements also causing considerable confusion for travelers.
Global Travel Disruption Continues Into 2021
Sadly for travelers, it seems that the disruption to global travel will continue for some time into the new year, with further waves of the virus, new lockdowns and fresh travel restrictions dampening hopes for a swift return to normal international vacations. Canada’s new testing requirements add to what was already one of the strictest regimes for international travel, with international tourists having been banned from the country since the start of the pandemic.
While other countries are still allowing international arrivals, many have also introduced a requirement for a negative COVID-19 test in order to gain entry, with the UK recently implementing this measure for all non-resident arrivals. The UK has also entered another nationwide lockdown which prohibits both local and international travel until at least mid-February, preventing most travel from and to the country.
Other significant travel restrictions remain in place including a ban on visitors to the USA from the UK, EU and Brazil, and a ban on visitors from the UK to most European countries and several other international destinations. Travelers will likely have to remain patient for some time longer as the pandemic is slowly brought under control once more and international vacations can resume without restrictions.
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Disclaimer: Current travel rules and restrictions can change without notice. The decision to travel is ultimately your responsibility. Contact your consulate and/or local authorities to confirm your nationality’s entry and/or any changes to travel requirements before traveling. Travel Off Path does not endorse traveling against government advisories