How WestJet's planned service suspensions will affect people in N.B.

·3 min read
Following Monday's announcement about WestJet's domestic winter service suspensions, a spokesperson for the Fredericton International Airport says travellers will stil have options for getting in an out of the city. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Following Monday's announcement about WestJet's domestic winter service suspensions, a spokesperson for the Fredericton International Airport says travellers will stil have options for getting in an out of the city. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press - image credit)

When Kerri Froc, a frequent WestJet passenger, saw the airline's announcement about winter service suspensions to Eastern Canada, she told herself she would never fly with the airline again.

This week, WestJet announced it would be suspending service to Fredericton, Sydney, N.S., Charlottetown, and Quebec City to focus on sun and leisure destinations and better connections to Western Canada.

The suspension will come into effect on Nov. 15. Service between now and then will not be affected, according to the  statement by the Calgary-based airline.

Unhappy travellers

A professor of law at University of New Brunswick, Froc said she would often fly with WestJet out of Fredericton International Airport, especially before the pandemic, for both work-related and leisure flights to Halifax, Toronto and Saskatchewan.

But she's been unhappy with the airline's service for a number of years now, she said.

Submitted by Kerri Froc
Submitted by Kerri Froc

The announcement is "the straw that broke the camel's back," and she's considering cancelling her WestJet rewards credit card.

"This is just part and parcel of a lack of respect for customers and a lack of customer service. So I'm extremely unhappy," said Froc. "I won't fly them again if I can help it."

Re-evaluation of business model

Because of pressure WestJet is facing from competitors such as Lynx Air and Flair Airlines in Western Canada, the airline is re-evaluating its strengths and weaknesses, according to Karl Moore, an airline industry analyst and professor at McGill University.

The airline is also going to move to smaller, narrow-body aircraft such as the Boeing 737 max jets, said Moore.

"It requires fewer people on them for them to make money, so they can take routes which are not as thick in terms of number of passengers and still be good business people," he said.

Moore said that business people who travel to and from Ontario and Quebec will be affected, but the change may also hurt tourism in the province, he said.

"It will make it harder to go see that beautiful part of the world," said Moore.

What's to change

The biggest change that air travellers might notice is fuller flights, Moore said.

"If you cancel from three flights to two, it means that the other two flights are probably going to be more full. So that's probably the only thing you'll really notice is that the planes might be a bit fuller."

While Kate O'Rourke, the spokesperson for Fredericton International Airport, was disappointed when she heard the announcement, she said she understands that airlines are still trying to figure out how to navigate the post-pandemic world.

Fredericton International Airport Authority
Fredericton International Airport Authority

Even with the WestJet service suspended, she said, travellers will continue to be well-served at the Fredericton airport. Air Canada, Porter Airlines and Sunwing Airlines are still options, depending on where people want to go.

"Certainly, it's something that we were very disappointed to hear," said O'Rourke. "You know, you never like to hear that there's going to be a suspension of service to your community.

"But we continue to work with WestJet and we continue to work with the other airlines that are currently serving the airport and other airlines that maybe we can bring to our airport to see what new service we can bring in for the community."

Future flights

In an email statement to CBC News, WestJet said service between Moncton and Toronto remains unaffected by this announcement.

WestJet said it is too early to say if service to Fredericton will return as part of more distant schedules.

"The decision to suspend service is never taken lightly and we understand this is disappointing news to our guests and the community and we apologize for any disruption this will cause," the airline said.

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