WestJet reduces Yellowknife-Calgary flights to one per day, each way

WestJet is reducing flights into and out of Yellowknife to one per day, in each direction, the airline announced in a news release on Sunday.

Starting Monday, WestJet will fly from Calgary to Yellowknife and back once daily through April 21, said an airline spokesperson. The airline says the reduced schedule is temporary and could change "as more information becomes known."

The schedule change comes as airlines around the world cut routes and drastically reduce flight frequency as COVID-19 protection measures put restrictions on air travel.

On Friday evening, Northwest Territories chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola announced plans to restrict travel into the territory by air, land and port to territorial residents, starting March 21, in an effort to suppress the spread of COVID-19. Exceptions are being made for residents, supply chain workers, flight crews and select others.

WestJet says it's "committed to keeping critical economic lifelines open for the 38 communities we serve across Canada," while it reduces its domestic service by about 50 per cent.

"Frequency may be reduced, but we pledge to be there for Canadians as long as possible to keep connections open and vital goods moving across our country," WestJet President and CEO Ed Sims said in the news release.

The effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic have been devastating to airlines large and small. 

Last Thursday Air Canada announced it was suspending its Calgary-Yellowknife route from March 23 to April 30, and its and Vancouver-Yellowknife route from April 1 and April 30. A day later, Yellowknife-based airline Air Tindi announced it was laying off or reassigning 35 per cent of its workforce while shrinking its flight schedule by more than 50 per cent. 

People returning to the N.W.T. are being ordered to self-isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River or Inuvik before returning to their home communities. 

The territory's first case of COVID-19 was reported in Yellowknife Saturday.