WestJet to lay off 120 cabin crew members as of March 2, citing flight suspensions

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WestJet Airlines Ltd. will lay off 120 cabin crew members as of March 2, blaming the measure on the lack of flights to Mexico and the Caribbean.

WestJet spokeswoman Morgan Bell says the company's employees were notified of the additional cuts on Friday morning.

"We continue to provide all eligible laid off employees access to CEWS and have no additional workforce updates to announce at this time," Bell said.

The layoffs come as Canadian airlines agree, at the request of the federal government, to suspend all flights to Mexico and the Caribbean until April 30.

Canada is also implementing new measures such as mandatory hotel quarantines for international travellers in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In response to the new government measures, Air Canada said Friday that it is weighing measures such as shortened work weeks to temporarily reduce management levels as a way of preserving cash.

"We continue to manage staffing levels through mitigation as the situation requires, just as we have done since the start of the pandemic," Air Canada spokeswoman Pascale Dery said.

Air Canada also said this week that it will pause all operations of Air Canada Rouge and lay off 80 employees starting Feb. 8 as a result of the flight suspensions.

Air Canada's flights to Mexico and the Caribbean had been operated primarily by Rouge, Air Canada said Thursday. Rouge's operations were suspended for part of 2020, but were resumed ahead of the winter travel season.

Friday's announcement by WestJet follows other rounds of layoffs in the airline sector since the start of 2021, after a spike in virus cases prompted additional travel restrictions.

Air Canada announced last month that it would lay off around 1,700 workers and cut more routes after seeing a drop in travel demand. WestJet also laid off 1,000 workers in January and further reduced its flight schedule.

As of Jan. 7, travellers to Canada have been required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test, a measure that airlines say has had an immediate impact on bookings.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2021.

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Jon Victor, The Canadian Press