The Coronavirus pandemic is decimating Canadian airlines and aerospace companies as demand for flights dwindles and restrictions tighten. WestJet has eliminated half its workforce and Air Canada has furloughed 600 pilots and 5100 flight attendants. Sunwing, which flies almost exclusively to destinations outside Canada, has laid off 1500 pilots and flight attendants. Unions representing the airline employees are calling for federal bailouts for the airlines. The U.S. government announced a $29 billion aid package for airlines there on Friday.
WestJet appears to be the most profoundly affected of the three major airlines. Last week, the airline asked its 14,000 employees to choose between cutting hours and pay and quitting the airline. The upshot was 6,900 workers will leave through early retirement, resignations and voluntary and involuntary leaves. The airline has parked 120 aircraft. “We’re now operating at the same size we were back in 2003,” WestJet CEO Ed Sims said. “We simply do not have enough demand to support our workforce at our current numbers.”