TORONTO — WestJet Airlines says it is suspending all international flights — including to the U.S. — for the next 30 days to help control the spread of COVID-19.
In a statement posted on the company’s website late Monday night, WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims said the airline would be suspending commercial international and transborder flights effective March 23.
“To be clear, this means our final commercially scheduled flights from international and transborder destinations will launch on Sunday night by 11:59 p.m. local time; after that, we will be operating rescue and repatriation flights in partnership with the Canadian government,” Sims said.
As of Wednesday, the airline said it will also suspend the sale of outbound international tickets during the 30-day period until March 22.
The Calgary-based airline said it is “no longer sending Canadians out of the country” and will instead focus on bringing them home.
“WestJetters are known for our level of care and this situation is no different,” Sims said. “While this is a difficult time, we now have the responsibility as a Canadian airline to bring our citizens home.”
WestJet will be lowering ticket prices for any remaining seats into Canada for those trying to return. The airline’s domestic flight schedule is also being reduced by 50 per cent for the next 30 days.
The decision comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that Canada will be shutting the border to non-Canadian citizens. Permanent Canadian residents, immediate family members of Canadian citizens, diplomats, air crews, and U.S. citizens are still being allowed into Canada at this time.
“If you’re abroad, it’s time for you to come home. If you’ve just arrived, you must self-isolate for 14 days, and finally all Canadians as much as possible, should stay home,” Trudeau said.
WestJet said it is also lowering prices on remaining seats on flights into Canada, and is reducing its domestic flight schedule by 50 per cent.
“While this is a difficult time, we now have the responsibility as a Canadian airline to bring our citizens home,” Sims said.
Earlier on Monday, Air Canada said that it is cutting its seat capacity in half and withdrawing its earnings forecast amid a “severe drop in traffic” amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
–With files from CTVNews.ca’s Rachel Aiello and The Canadian Press
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