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WestJet Lays Off 3,333 in Coronavirus-Related Restructure

WestJet Lays Off 3,333 in Coronavirus-Related Restructure
Joe Cortez

Calgary-based WestJet will be forced to shed an estimated 25 percent of their workforce, as the novel Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the aviation sector. The carrier will remove 3,333 employees, but is working to keep many of them within the aviation sector.  

Canadian airline WestJet will shed over 3,000 jobs through consolidation, after the novel Coronavirus outbreak grounded airlines worldwide. Airline president and CEO Ed Sims made the announcement in a video and press release on June 24, 2020.


Restructure Focuses on Calgary and Canadian Focus Cities

Under the plan, WestJet will organize their employees around their headquarters of Calgary, and three Canadian cities: Vancouver, Edmonton and Toronto. As a result, 3,333 employees will be shed from the company, slimming their operations down to roughly 10,000 people.

The layoffs will come through focusing all contact center operations in Calgary. The airline will also contract out its airport operations 34 of their 38 Canadian airports, while WestJet will maintain operations at their four major airports. Office and management staff will also go through a “strategic restructuring,” with the airline being unclear about how that will affect personnel.

“WestJet has remained self-sufficient throughout this extended crisis, cutting our costs by more than 60 percent,” Sims said in his video announcement. “And yet, despite these efforts, the damage we’ve incurred from a weakened demand environment has been compounded by multiple factors, including a patchwork of provincial and federal travel advisories, constraints on non-essential travel…and the cost challenges facing our airport and air navigation partners.”

While many frontline staff will be eliminated through the process, a number of pilots may not be affected by the overall restructuring. On April 30, 2020, WestJet and the Air Line Pilot Association announced an amendment to their contract, allowing 1,000 aviators to keep their jobs. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

WestJet Focuses on Future and Placing Laid-Off Employees

Although the airline will displace a number of workers, they are dedicated to help them find new jobs in the aviation industry. Through the outsourcing process, WestJet suggested they may give preferential consideration to airport operation firms who employed former WestJet staff.

“To our WestJetters and your families and friends: This situation is nobody’s fault, and nothing anyone could have done could have created a different outcome,” Sims said in the video. “Reducing WestJetter roles has always been a last resort. If there were other viable options available to us, we would be taking them.”

The leader also apologized to WestJet flyers who were forced to cancel travel plans and “receive sometimes multiple flight changes.” Addressing their frustration, Sims noted the airline would lean on technology to create touch-free airport experiences and improve response times for their call center.

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