Alberta’s ongoing oil slump has forced WestJet Airlines Ltd. to cancel nearly a dozen daily flights out of the province’s two largest airports, primarily to western energy hubs.
The Calgary-based carrier announced its summer schedule Monday, which will see six fewer daily flights from Calgary’s international airport and five fewer from Edmonton.
WestJet’s Richard Bartrem said the changes, slated to take effect March 5, are a reflection of the changing needs of passengers in a province mired in a massive slump in oil prices, and primarily impacts flights to energy hubs.
Meet Gabor Lukacs, the child math prodigy turned professional airline troublemakerDogfight: Inside the decades-long battle over Toronto’s Billy Bishop airportBombardier Inc’s CSeries hopes dashed by United Airlines, but Delta Air Lines Inc remains potential buyer
“We’re seeing less demand for travel to and from energy markets,” he said.
“But it’s not suggested that any of these are on a permanent basis.
“It’s a serious decision for us.”
By March 5, the airline will slash one of its 11 daily flights between Calgary and Edmonton, while Calgary will also see its direct flights to Terrace and Prince George, B.C. suspended.
There will also be reduced service to Fort McMurray, Penticton, B.C. and Brandon, MB., Bartrem said.
In Edmonton, its connections to Kamloops and Nanaimo, B.C. will be turfed along with reduced service to Grande Prairie and Calgary.
As flights from once booming western markets wane, WestJet is beefing up its offerings in Eastern Canada.
The carrier has added more flights out of Toronto between Ottawa, Montreal and Fredericton, as well as between Ottawa and Halifax.
It’s had a dramatic impact
Bartrem said the tumbling Canadian dollar has also been a factor in its decision making.
“It’s had a dramatic impact,” he said.
“We are definitely seeing an upside in the price of fuel, like anyone else.
“But we also pay flight leasing and airport fees in U.S. dollars.”
Meanwhile, as WestJet adjusts its schedule for business travel, the slumping dollar has also seen leisure travelers alter their destinations.
“We’re seeing some movement away from U.S. destinations and we’re seeing more movement into all-inclusive markets — destinations like Mexico, Cuba and Jamaica are all on the upturn,” he said.
“The demand still seems pretty strong for vacation destinations.”
Bartrem said WestJet tinkers with its flight schedules twice every year, and will announce its winter routes in October.
By summer, WestJet and its discount carrier Encore will operate some 4,590 flights per week to 101 destinations — 38 in Canada, 27 in the U.S., 33 in the Caribbean and Mexico and three in Europe.