Summer travel surge has WestJet and Air Canada asking for volunteer help

From CBC News – link to source story

Passenger traffic has reached its highest point since pandemic began

Kyle Bakx · CBC News · September 16, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has ground an unprecedented number of flights in Canada and around the world. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

A surge in summer travel across the country has forced Canada’s two biggest airlines to ask staff to help volunteer at airports to overcome staffing challenges — a move that is creating pushback from unions.

In an email to all employees, WestJet described how the rapid growth in passenger numbers is causing operational problems at several airports, including its flagship airport in Calgary.

The “growing pains of recovery requires all-hands-on-deck,” read the message, which included an open call for any staff members to sign up to volunteer to help guests requiring wheelchair assistance at the Calgary International Airport.

Meanwhile, Air Canada has needed extra personnel at Toronto’s Pearson airport since “airport partners are stretched beyond their capacity, which led to significant flight cancellations and missed connections,” read an internal memo.

In late August and early September, air passenger traffic reached its highest point since the pandemic began. The increase in business is critical to the aviation industry, which was devastated early on in the crisis as many countries restricted international travel.

The industry is not immune to the staffing challenges faced by many sectors as lockdowns started to lift; airlines continue to cope with changing government restrictions, while also following a variety of COVID-19 protocols at domestic and international airports.

In the U.S., American Airlines and Delta Air Lines also asked staff to volunteer at airports this summer.

At Toronto’s Pearson, the international arrival process can take up to three hours, as passengers are screened by Canada Border Services Agency and Public Health Agency of Canada agents, collect bags and possibly take a COVID-19 test.

“As the technology for sharing and displaying vaccine documents improves, passengers become more comfortable with the new process and vaccine-driven changes in border protections take effect, we hope to see further improvement in wait-time conditions in the terminals,” a Pearson spokesperson said in an email statement, which highlighted other steps to reduce delays.https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/mrCsu/1/

Union objections

But several unions have advised their members to avoid volunteering for a variety of reasons.

CUPE, which represents flight attendants at WestJet, declined to comment. However, in a letter, it told members that “the company is imploring you to provide free, volunteer and zero-cost labour. THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE.”

The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents WestJet’s pilots, also declined to comment. But in a message to members, it highlighted how “if you are injured doing this work, you may not be covered by our disability insurer.”

Unifor, which represents customer service agents at both of Canada’s major airlines, said its members were upset about the call for volunteers and the union wasn’t happy that there wasn’t any advanced warning or conversation.

“Take a group of workers that is already very stressed by the kind of operation that’s going on, the quantity of passengers, the amount of extra processes that are in place because of COVID in order to travel — and then adding these pieces on is not helpful,” said Leslie Dias, Unifor’s director of airlines.

During the pandemic, WestJet decided to outsource the work of guest-service agents, who would help passengers that require wheelchairs, assist with check-in kiosks and co-ordinate lineups.

But the contractor is struggling to provide enough workers, said Dias, and that’s why there was a call for volunteers.

After flying more than 700 flights daily in 2019, WestJet flew as few as 30 some days during the pandemic. Currently, there are more than 400 flights each day.

“WestJet, as is the case across Canada and across many industries, faces continued issues due to labour hiring challenges as a result of COVID-19,” said spokesperson Morgan Bell in an emailed statement.

“As WestJet looks ahead to recovery, we continue to work toward actively recalling and hiring company-wide, with the current expectation we will reach 9,000 fully trained WestJetters by the end of the year, which is more than twice as many WestJetters as we had at our lowest point in the pandemic some five months ago,” she said.

Air Canada said it only asked salaried management to help volunteer at Pearson airport. 

Unifor said the airline was short of workers because the company didn’t have enough training capacity to accommodate recalled employees and couldn’t arrange restricted-area passes on time.

Thousands of airline workers lost their jobs, were furloughed or faced wage reductions last year, although the carriers are bringing back workers as travel activity increases.

Officials at Toronto’s Pearson airport say they are trying to reduce delays and wait times by bringing back the international-to-domestic connection process, which helps some arriving international passengers that are connecting onward in Canada to complete the customs process faster and go directly to their next flight. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Returning staff

At WestJet, its customer service agents have been recalled, according to Unifor. Many employees in other positions, though, remain out of work, including about 500 furloughed pilots.

Air Canada said it has been continually recalling employees since last spring, including more than 5,000 in July and August.

Asking for volunteers is an “unusual” occurrence in the industry, said Rick Erickson, an independent airline analyst based in Calgary. But he said it’s not surprising since cutting a workforce is much easier than building it back up.

Airlines have to retrain staff, secure valid certification and security passes, and find new hires as well.

Erickson said he even spotted WestJet CEO Ed Sims helping at the check-in counter in Calgary in recent weeks, as passenger activity was at its peak so far this year.

“This has been the most challenging time, honestly, in civil aviation history; we’ve never, ever seen anything approaching 90 per cent of your revenues drying up,” said Erickson, noting that airlines still have to watch their finances closely.

WestJet CEO Ed Sims is shown at the airline’s headquarters in Calgary. He’s been helping at the check-in counter at the Calgary airport in recent weeks. (Kyle Bakx/CBC)

Asking employees to volunteer isn’t illegal, but it does raise some questions, said Sarah Coderre, a labour lawyer with Bow River Law LLP in Calgary. 

“Whether or not it’s fair, and the sort of position it puts the employees in, if they choose not to volunteer, that would be concerning for me from a legal standpoint,” said Coderre.

Air Canada is currently operating at about 35 to 40 per cent of its 2019 flying capacity, but said one bright spot on the horizon is bookings for winter getaways toward the end of this year and the beginning of 2022.

“When looking to the sun leisure markets, we are very optimistic about our recovery,” a spokesperson said by email. “We are currently observing demand growth that is above 2019 levels.”

The WestJet Group announces Harry Taylor as interim President and CEO

Jennifer Bue to step in as interim Chief Financial Officer

CALGARY, AB, Sept. 15, 2021 /CNW/ – The WestJet Group today announced that Harry Taylor will assume the interim role of President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with a transition period taking place between late November and mid-December 2021. Current CEO Ed Sims announced his retirement on June 9, 2021.

The WestJet Group announces Harry Taylor as interim President and CEO (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)

“I am extremely pleased Harry has agreed to take on this interim role,” said the WestJet Group Board Chair Chris Burley. “Our global search for a permanent CEO continues, and on behalf of WestJet and the board, we are grateful Harry has stepped up to help us through this critical transition. Harry has been an integral part of our pandemic planning and recovery, and it is his painstaking attention to our finances and his unique perspective that helped us through. As we continue to navigate our way through the remainder of the pandemic, Harry’s experience in the industry, combined with his deep appreciation and understanding of the WestJet culture will be a tremendous asset as we work to rebuild our airline and deliver on the five-year plan for our people and our guests.”

“It is a tremendous honour to be asked to serve as interim CEO for the WestJet Group, and I look forward to leading our organization through this crucial phase of our recovery,” said Harry Taylor. “There is much work to be done, while we continue our search for a permanent CEO. I am confident my experience as CFO through this crisis, combined with my tenure at WestJet, will set us up for success until such time as we welcome our new CEO.”

Harry Taylor joined WestJet in 2015 as Executive Vice-President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO). During this time, he led the airline’s inaugural U.S. bond issue, negotiated the purchase of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Boeing MAX aircraft, and was instrumental in the sale of WestJet to Onex. Through the pandemic, Harry led the Finance team in managing WestJet’s liquidity to ensure sustainability with little to no revenue coming in.

While Harry serves as interim CEO, Jennifer Bue, WestJet’s current Vice-President, Finance Planning & Analysis will serve as interim CFO. Jenn joined WestJet in 2008 and has held various leadership roles in corporate planning, treasury, accounting and was head of finance at Swoop. Prior to WestJet, Jenn worked at Deloitte and at RBC in equity research. Jenn holds designations as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and has a Master of Professional Accounting (MPAcc) and a Bachelor of Commerce (BComm).

“With my transition into my new role, I am delighted Jenn Bue has agreed to become our interim CFO,” continued Harry Taylor. “Jenn’s knowledge and experience, combined with her invaluable leadership throughout the pandemic, will enable her to be a terrific leader as we continue to rebuild our airline and deliver on our growth strategy.”

About WestJet 
In 25 years of serving Canadians, WestJet has cut airfares in half and increased the flying population in Canada to more than 50 per cent. WestJet launched in 1996 with three aircraft, 250 employees and five destinations, growing over the years to more than 180 aircraft, 14,000 employees and more than 100 destinations in 23 countries, pre-pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic the WestJet Group of Companies has built a layered framework of safety measures to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All promise. During this time, WestJet has maintained its status as one of the top-10 on-time airlines in North America as named by Cirium.

For more information about everything WestJet, please visit westjet.com

Westjet says another few months until flights at Thunder Bay airport return to pre-pandemic levels

From CBC News – link to source story

Jeff Walters · CBC News · Posted: Sep 10, 2021

WestJet Encore services Thunder Bay with its Dash-8 Q400 turboprop aircraft on flights to Toronto and Winnipeg. (Francois Biber/CBC)

Increasing demand for flights to and from Thunder Bay, Ont., have allowed airlines servicing in the city to add more flights to the city, but it will be months before air travel is back to its pre-pandemic levels.

Westjet held an online round-table, including some of its executives, officials from the Thunder Bay Airport and Tourism Thunder Bay. The event was to discuss how the airline can attract more business and increase tourism.

“We’re aiming to return as much capacity over the next six months,” as was found pre-pandemic, said Chris Hedlin, the vice-president of network planning at Westjet.

Hedlin said demand at the airline, on a national level is projected to grow from July to January as much as the airline grew in the past 11 years.

Demand at the Thunder Bay Airport for Westjet flights dropped by about 80 percent through the pandemic, which is a little less than the overall demand drop of 90 percent.

Data in the Westjet presentation noted that pre-pandemic, over 800,000 passengers flew annually through Thunder Bay’s Airport. That figure dwindled to about 200,000 during the height of the pandemic.

Currently, the airline is running its capacity to Thunder Bay at 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, Hedlin said, which is about average for the entire flight system.

“That’s going to continue to impact the pace at which we bring back services, as they still have to make sense. They still have to be driven by demand,” said Hedlin. 

Westjet is the only carrier to serve both Toronto and Winnipeg from Thunder Bay.

The airline said, in a response to a question from a former airport board member, that it would continue to look at adding a direct flight between Thunder Bay and Calgary, to take advantage of connections through its Calgary hub.

Earlier this week, Porter Airlines restarted its flights between Thunder Bay and Toronto’s Billy Bishop City Centre Airport.

Flair Airlines also announced it would now book flights to Thunder Bay from Toronto for the summer of 2022, with up to five flights per week.

The WestJet Group announces mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all employees

CALGARY, AB, Sept. 8, 2021 /CNW/ – The WestJet Group today announced that effective October 30, 2021, all WestJet Group employees will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. In addition, full vaccination status will be a requirement of employment for all future employees hired by the WestJet Group.

“Protecting the health and safety of our guests and employees remains our number one priority and vaccinations are our best line of defense,” said Mark Porter, WestJet Executive Vice-President of People. “Aviation has been one of the hardest hit industries and we believe requiring all WestJet Group employees to be vaccinated is the right thing to do and ensures the safest travel and work environment for everyone in WestJet’s world.”

The WestJet Group will evaluate and accommodate those employees who are unable to be vaccinated against COVID-19 either through medical or other exemption. Employees who fail to attest their vaccination status by September 24 or achieve full vaccination status by October 30, 2021, will face unpaid leave or termination of employment. As part of its vaccine mandate, the airline will not provide testing as an alternative to vaccination.

Continued Porter, “The WestJet Group remains committed to building back even stronger to ensure a competitive aviation industry in Canada. Requiring all employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is essential to the safe restart of travel across Canada.”

About WestJet 

In 25 years of serving Canadians, WestJet has cut airfares in half and increased the flying population in Canada to more than 50 per cent. WestJet launched in 1996 with three aircraft, 250 employees and five destinations, growing over the years to more than 180 aircraft, 14,000 employees and more than 100 destinations in 23 countries, pre-pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic the WestJet Group of Companies has built a layered framework of safety measures to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All promise. During this time, WestJet has maintained its status as one of the top-10 on-time airlines in North America as named by Cirium.

For more information about everything WestJet, please visit westjet.com

Travellers face delays, flight cancellations due to apparent WestJet staff shortage

From CBC News – link to source story

Some customers spending hours on hold with airline, which is working to recall staff laid off in pandemic

Brittany Roffel · CBC News · Posted: Aug 30, 2021

WestJet laid off thousands of employees in the early days of the pandemic, and the airline now appears understaffed as travel picks up again.  (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Many Canadian travellers are facing delays, flight cancellations and long waits on the phone for customer service as WestJet works to recall employees lost during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When the pandemic hit in 2020 the airline laid off thousands of employees, and it now appears understaffed as travel picks up again. 

It’s led to frustration for customers like Kelowna, B.C., resident Heather Elaydi, whose four-hour flight to Toronto turned into a three-day ordeal after it was cancelled at short notice.

Elaydi had planned to fly from Kelowna to Toronto last Saturday to visit family, and specifically booked a direct flight because she walks with a cane and requested wheelchair assistance from WestJet. 

“Stopovers in particular are quite taxing physically for me. So, that was an intentional choice to get a direct flight. And that direct flight was cancelled the night before I was supposed to depart,” Elaydi told CBC News. 

The flight was rescheduled but with a stopover in Edmonton. Elaydi says she tried to contact WestJet to see if anything could be done but had no luck getting hold of them.

Travellers stand in line to check in for WestJet Airlines flights at Vancouver International Airport in October 2020. (Darryl Dyck/Bloomberg)

Ultimately, she decided to go ahead with the flight because the stopover was short. But once she arrived in Edmonton she learned her connection to Toronto had been cancelled.

After spending the night in Edmonton, the airline rebooked her on another connection through Winnipeg the following day and, after an hour-long layover, she finally made it to Toronto. 

Elaydi said while the staff at the Edmonton airport had been great, there has been no contact or acknowledgement from WestJet. 

“People who have disabilities, who have pain, who have specifically requested that they receive assistance while travelling, we’re not given any consideration on how these itinerary changes impact,” she said.

Travellers from all over Canada have taken to social media in frustration after spending hours on hold trying to contact the airline. 

Nathan Hennigar tried to get a hold of WestJet to reschedule his flight home to B.C. from Saskatchewan later this week. 

“I got to the four-hour mark and I hear a click and then the three beeps that follow your phone disconnecting. At that point, I was a little frustrated,” Hennigar said.

When he turned to the airline’s Twitter account, he was told his request would need to be done over the phone, resulting in another hours-long wait. 

WestJet working to recall employees

“We are in the process of recalling many WestJetters and hope to have our wait times back to pre-pandemic wait times soon,” WestJet wrote on Twitter.

Another passenger who faced troubles was Kaitlyn Stock, who planned to travel with WestJet from Vancouver back home to Toronto on Aug. 20. 

Arriving at the airport two hours prior to the flight, Stock says she found out it was cancelled because there was not enough crew onboard. It left her stuck in Vancouver waiting for a rescheduled flight nearly 48 hours later.

“It wasn’t just my flight that got cancelled, it was a lot of others as well, just because they didn’t have staff,” Stock said. 

Stock emailed WestJet inquiring about compensation for the hotel and food she paid for while waiting for her flight, but has been waiting over 10 days with no response. 

In a statement sent to CBC News, a WestJet spokesperson said the airline is currently facing high volumes over phone, email and social media as they work to bring back employees.

“While we are seeing positive signs of recovery, our flight schedules are built many months in advance based on anticipated demand,” said Kruger. 

She says that as travel restrictions lift and vaccination rates rise, they will work “diligently to predict the balance in demand.”

The spokesperson said WestJet will provide refunds when requested, given the passenger meets the eligibility criteria.

‘It’s pure barry!’ WestJet introduces new flights to Scotland from Toronto

Airline adds Toronto to Edinburgh to its international network and new non-stop service between Glasgow and Toronto

CALGARY, AB, Aug. 31, 2021 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced new service between Toronto and Scotland with the addition of non-stop flights to Edinburgh and Glasgow beginning in Spring 2022. Adding to the airline’s international destination map, service between Edinburgh and Toronto is set to launch on June 2, 2022, while flights between Glasgow and Toronto will begin on May 20, 2022.   

“As we continue to rebuild our international network, we’re pleased to offer our guests new options to connect via our Toronto hub for business and leisure to these incredible cities,” said John Weatherill, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “This spring, guests on both sides of the Atlantic will benefit from more choices and lower fares when travelling between Canada and Scotland.”

With the addition of Edinburgh to the airline’s international network, service between Toronto (YYZ) and Edinburgh (EDI) is set to operate three-times weekly effective June 2, 2022, while service between Toronto and Glasgow (GLA) will operate four-times weekly as of May 20, 2022.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming Edinburgh to our international network and strengthening travel and tourism between our two countries,” continued Weatherill. “Whether travellers are looking to discover Edinburgh’s enchanting castles and cobbled streets or exploring the vibrance of Toronto and beyond, we’re committed to introducing new destinations and routes to our network.”

By Spring 2022, WestJet will offer service to two Scottish destinations with service from Toronto to Edinburgh and Glasgow and the resumption of flights between Halifax and Glasgow.

Details of WestJet’s new services between Toronto and Scotland:

RouteFrequencyStart date
Toronto-Glasgow4x weeklyMay 20, 2022
Toronto-Edinburgh*3x weeklyJune 2, 2022

*New WestJet destination

Additional quotes

“We are excited to see our partners at WestJet bringing these new routes to Toronto Pearson,” said Janik Reigate, Director, Strategic Customer Relationships, Greater Toronto Airports Authority. “From curb to gate and back again, when you’re ready to travel, you can do so knowing that your health and safety is our top priority. You’ll notice our Healthy Airport commitment in action across all touchpoints of your airport journey, from parking, check-in and bag drop to shopping, dining and more.”

“I welcome WestJet’s commitment to Scotland and the launch of their new services to Toronto from both Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports,” said Graeme Day, Minister of Transport, Scotland. “It is encouraging to see airlines develop their connectivity with Scotland at this time. Canada is an important market for Scotland, and I am sure these routes will be welcomed by both business travellers and tourists in both our countries. I also welcome the use of WestJet’s latest generation aircraft that will help minimise carbon emissions. I wish WestJet and the airports every success with these routes.” 

“We know there is huge interest in North America and Canada in particular, so welcoming a fantastic airline like WestJet to Edinburgh Airport is hugely exciting and we are glad to welcome them to Scotland’s capital,” said Gordon Dewar, Chief Executive of Edinburgh Airport. “People are beginning to plan those family reunions and longed for holidays so we hope new additions where possible will help to satisfy that demand, and the route will also present a great opportunity to strengthen business links. We look forward to welcoming WestJet to Edinburgh and showing off our fantastic capital city and everything else that Scotland has to offer.”

“The announcement today that WestJet will launch Toronto services direct into both Glasgow and Edinburgh in spring 2022 is hugely welcome for the recovery of Scotland’s inbound tourism markets. With Canada now a green list destination, making it easier for Canadians to visit, this adds further grounds for optimism for the return of one of Scotland’s key international markets, said Denise Hill, Head of Engagement, Visit Scotland. “VisitScotland has enjoyed a very positive partnership with WestJet in promoting their continuing Halifax to Glasgow service and we look forward to working closely with them to make these additional services a success also. With a strong latent demand for travel, these new air routes present an opportune moment for Scottish tourism businesses to re-engage with this important market.”

About WestJet 

In 25 years of serving Canadians, WestJet has cut airfares in half and increased the flying population in Canada to more than 50 per cent. WestJet launched in 1996 with three aircraft, 250 employees and five destinations, growing over the years to more than 180 aircraft, 14,000 employees and more than 100 destinations in 23 countries, pre-pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic the WestJet Group of Companies has built a layered framework of safety measures to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All promise. During this time, WestJet has maintained its status as one of the top-10 on-time airlines in North America as named by Cirium.

For more information about everything WestJet, please visit westjet.com

Eureka! We have found our way back to California – Westjet

WestJet brings back service between Calgary and Orange County/Anaheim, and transitions to year-round connectivity to San Francisco

CALGARY, AB, Aug. 23, 2021 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced it is growing its California network. The airline is reintroducing non-stop service between Orange County/Anaheim and Calgary, initially operating twice weekly, beginning November 4, 2021, and quickly transitioning to three times weekly on December 7, 2021. Additionally, the airline moves from summer flights to providing year-round service between Calgary and San Francisco, operating twice weekly, beginning October 31, 2021.

“We are excited to increase connectivity between the Golden State and Alberta, another step toward strengthening our presence as Western Canada’s largest air carrier, while restoring our transborder network,” said John Weatherill, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “Whether visiting the many world-renowned theme parks in Orange County, escaping the cold winter to explore San Francisco’s coastline or jet setting to marvel at the Canadian Rockies, these routes will provide more affordable and convenient travel options for business and leisure travel.”

Delta codeshare partnership

WestJet guests flying to Orange County/Anaheim and San Francisco from Calgary will benefit from convenient connections, through WestJet’s codeshare partnership with Delta, gaining access to Delta’s extensive and expanding network of U.S. destinations. Additionally, top-tier WestJet Rewards members and Business cabin guests will enjoy benefits through their connections to Delta’s network including access to Delta Sky Club lounges.

Details of WestJet’s new service between Calgary and Orange County/Anaheim:

RouteFrequencyStart date
Calgary – Orange County/Anaheim2x weeklyNovember 4, 2021
3x weeklyDecember 7, 2021
Orange County/Anaheim – Calgary2x weeklyNovember 4, 2021
3x weeklyDecember 7, 2021

Details of WestJet’s new service between Calgary and San Francisco:

RouteFrequencyStart date
Calgary – San Francisco2x weeklyOctober 31, 2021
San Francisco – Calgary2x weeklyOctober 31, 2021

Additional quotes

“Congratulations to WestJet on the announcement of their direct route from YYC to Orange County, and the extended year-round capacity to the city famous for its Golden Gate bridge. These added U.S. routes strengthen our role as WestJet’s hub and provide more Albertans the ability to visit sunny California. We also say ‘hello/bonjour’ to Californians visiting Calgary given the eased restrictions for U.S. travelers.” The Calgary Airport Authority

About WestJet

In 25 years of serving Canadians, WestJet has cut airfares in half and increased the flying population in Canada to more than 50 per cent. WestJet launched in 1996 with three aircraft, 250 employees and five destinations, growing over the years to more than 180 aircraft, 14,000 employees and more than 100 destinations in 23 countries, pre-pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic the WestJet Group of Companies has built a layered framework of safety measures to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All promise. During this time, WestJet has maintained its status as one of the top-10 on-time airlines in North America as named by Cirium.

We’ll always have Paris – Westjet

WestJet restarts Calgary-Paris non-stop and continues momentum in rebuilding transatlantic network

CALGARY, AB, Aug. 20, 2021 /CNW/ – WestJet today reinstated its position as the only airline to operate a non-stop route between Calgary and Paris with the departure of flight 10 from Calgary International Airport on the airline’s 787 Dreamliner. With the restart of service to Paris, WestJet becomes the airline serving the most European destinations, direct from its global hub in Calgary. WestJet introduced twice-weekly, non-stop, service between Calgary and Amsterdam on August 5 and is currently serving London (Gatwick) two times weekly, with both markets increasing to three-times weekly in September.

“We are thrilled to bring back this historic route between Calgary and Paris, reconnecting these two incredible cities and providing easy and unique travel opportunities throughout Europe for Western Canadians,” said John Weatherill, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “Calgary to Paris is a key market for inbound tourism to Western Canada. Alongside a successful vaccination rollout across Canada, we are proud to see this route return and will continue to invest in the economic recovery and growth of both Calgary and Alberta, following the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In 2019, WestJet’s investment in direct flights from Europe to Alberta drove $90 Million in spend from 56,000 inbound travellers.

Air France codeshare partnership

The return of Calgary-Paris also restores WestJet’s longstanding codeshare partnership with Air France, giving Canadian business and leisure travellers the ability to seamlessly connect to and from 16 cities in greater Europe, including Rome, Venice, Athens and Lisbon. WestJet guests connecting through Air France are eligible to continue earning WestJet Dollars throughout their entire journey as they travel to their preferred European destinations.

Details of WestJet’s service between Calgary and Paris:

RouteFrequencyStart Date
Calgary – Paris1x weeklyAug. 20 – October 29, 2021
Paris – Calgary1x weeklyAug. 22 – October 31, 2021

Additional quotes

“Congratulations to WestJet on resuming their direct service from YYC to Paris. This transatlantic route will further strengthen our presence as WestJet’s global hub, as guests are once again able to experience the city of lights in just nine hours. We look forward to welcoming visitors from France and the region to Calgary as they make plans to travel again,” said Rob Palmer, Vice-President, Commercial, Strategy and Chief Financial Officer, of The Calgary Airport Authority.

“Connections to global markets are vital for attracting companies, capital and people to Calgary, said Brad Parry, Interim President & CEO, Calgary Economic Development. Having WestJet’s hub in Calgary, providing direct service to international markets like Paris, provides us with a competitive advantage. It is one of the many reasons global businesses continue to set up their offices and headquarters for North America in Calgary.”

“I am delighted with this excellent news. This resumption of traffic between Calgary and France will allow us to further develop economic and cultural exchanges between Western Canada and France. Thank you, WestJet, for reopening this route,” said Kareen Rispal French Ambassador to Canada.

About WestJet 

In 25 years of serving Canadians, WestJet has cut airfares in half and increased the flying population in Canada to more than 50 per cent. WestJet launched in 1996 with three aircraft, 250 employees and five destinations, growing over the years to more than 180 aircraft, 14,000 employees and more than 100 destinations in 23 countries, pre-pandemic.

Since the start of the pandemic the WestJet Group of Companies has built a layered framework of safety measures to ensure Canadians can continue to travel safely and responsibly through the airline’s Safety Above All promise. During this time, WestJet has maintained its status as one of the top-10 on-time airlines in North America as named by Cirium.

For more information about everything WestJet, please visit westjet.com

Change to airline’s support dog policy mid-trip had Windsor, Ont. family scrambling to get home

From CTV News – link to source story

Bob Bellacicco, CTV Windsor News Reporter | Wednesday, August 18, 2021

WINDSOR, ONT. — It was supposed to be an enjoyable trip to Alberta but “these kind of changes in the plans are totally unfair,” said Don Brunelle.

He and his wife Brenda travelled WestJet to Calgary on June 30 with Rascal, who is registered as an emotional support animal.

They were having a nice visit until they received a call at lunch time on Aug. 4.

“Advising me that our return trip that’s booked for the 21st of August, Rascal would have to return home kenneled,” Brenda explained.

On July 15, WestJet announced on their website emotional support dogs would no longer be permitted in the cabin of a plane beginning Aug. 5.

Rascal has been an important part of the Brunelle family for 11 years.

“Me kinda taking care of him takes my mind off all the other things that are creating that anxiety so I do have to travel with him,” Don said.

The Brunelles aren’t against policy change, but they feel WestJet could have done a better job of communicating that change in a timely fashion.

“If they change that policy they should really have given maybe a month’s grace or something so that people could adapt to the new way of doing business,” Don said.

“How do you strand people mid trip and then try and tell them ‘well sorry that’s the way the policy is and it comes into effect tomorrow,’” Brenda added.

Not wanting to be separated from Rascal, the Brunelle’s are taking a train home to Windsor.

“We now have to get a ride from Calgary to Edmonton and Via Rail only leaves Edmonton to Toronto on Tuesdays so that’s making us stay here an added week,” Brenda said.

Instead of being home in three or four hours the Brunelle’s say it could take days, with added costs.

They are frustrated and feel they and others like them are being discriminated against.

“They’re discriminating against a very serious, very real and a very well documented illness,” Brenda said.

Brenda says the airline has offered to refund their airfare but she and her husband hope the company rethinks their policy.

“It just allows those of us who require that kind of assistance to have to look elsewhere to make their travel plans,” Don said.

In a statement emailed to CTV News, a WestJet Spokesperson writes “On August 5, 2021, WestJet announced that we would no longer accept emotional support dogs in the cabin, on any flight operated by the WestJet Group. WestJet continues to accept service dogs who meet the outlined criteria for training and behaviour and who support those with disabilities.

It goes on to say, “This policy change provides consistency and clarity across our network, for all of our guests, while ensuring we meet all regulatory requirements for the jurisdictions which we operate in.”

Don Brunelle with emotional support dog Rascal. (courtesy Brunelle family)