“Over the past 72 hours, we have seen a significant increase in delays and cancellations impacting our business. As we work to stabilize our operation to best serve our guests, we understand this has been immensely challenging and frustrating and for that we apologize,” writes Harry Taylor, Interim President and CEO, WestJet Group, Inc. in a message to customers and the travel trade.
Taylor continues: “We could not have anticipated the rapid and unpredictable impact of the Omicron variant on our people and operations, coupled with prolonged frigid temperatures across Western Canada and global staffing shortages. Despite all contingency planning, in addition to hiring back thousands of WestJetters to safely support peak operations, we find ourselves no longer able to predictably resource our planned schedule due to Omicron impact and have made the difficult decision to consolidate approximately 15% of scheduled flights through to Jan. 31, 2022.”
Taylor says that: “Schedule changes will be implemented over the coming days, and while consolidation is a last resort, it demonstrates the reality of the service we planned versus that we can now realistically deliver. It is the best option to ensure the availability of our frontline staff and third-party service providers, while minimizing the impact on our guests.”
He continues: “Our team is making every effort to consolidate flights that have the least disruption; all guests with impacted flights will be proactively notified. For any WestJet-initiated cancellation or schedule change, where the schedule change was greater than 90 minutes or one or more stops were added, guests are eligible for a refund to original form of payment if desired, or can utilize WestJet’s flexible change and cancel policies. Guests are encouraged to utilize self-serve options prior to calling for assistance; guests seeking support outside of the 72-hour travel window are able to schedule a call-back.”
Taylor also writes that: “Additional measures are urgently needed from our federal and provincial governments to minimize disruption. Canada has an envious global leadership position in vaccination rates and transportation is the only fully-vaccinated ecosystem and the most tested consumer activity in Canada. National alignment and standardization for our sector, similar to the approaches being taken by provinces to stabilize other essential services such as healthcare, would remove inconsistent provincial isolation requirements that are restricting staffing abilities.”
And he notes that: “We are actively engaging with the federal and provincial governments in light of evolving scientific data available on the Omicron variant, as changes would aid us, along with our sector, in more effectively scheduling crew and employees, while maintaining essential air service for Canadian communities.”
Taylor concludes: “We are tremendously grateful to our guests who have continued to demonstrate patience and understanding during these uncertain times. In the face of adversity, our people and our partners have continued to rise to the challenge to ensure our guests get to where they need to go safely. We appreciate the continued support and are committed to providing transparent updates in the days ahead.”