WestJet extends Mexico, Caribbean route suspensions into June

Canada's airlines are adding back capacity more slowly than carriers in other countries, including the US.

WestJet, Canada's second largest airline, has extended the suspension of its Mexico and Caribbean routes until at least June 4. 

Canada’s airlines agreed to suspend flights to warm weather destinations in January 2021 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Vacation destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean are normally popular for Canadians during the cold winter months. 

WestJet CEO Ed Sims said the “clear expectation [is] that as more Canadians are vaccinated, government policy will transition” away from travel restrictions. Canada has had among the strictest COVID-19 set of rules in the world for travelers, mandating both a negative test for the virus and a quarantine for passengers arriving in the country. Even domestic flying has been severely restricted.   

Roughly 4.4% of Canada’s population has been fully vaccinated, according to Our World Data. That compares with roughly 40% in the US. 

Sims said WestJet continues to “advocate for the replacement of mandatory hotel quarantines with a testing regime that is equitable and consistent with global standards at all points of entry into our country.”  

A mandatory 14-day quarantine has been in place for international arrivals to Canada since March 2020, and earlier this year, the country added mandatory testing on arrival. 

Passengers must quarantine for three days at a hotel, at their own expense, while awaiting test results. If the test is negative, travelers can complete their 14-day quarantine at a suitable location of their choice. Those who test positive are required to complete the quarantine at a government-supervised facility.  

Canada’s government has not issued any formal guidance to ease restrictions. Unlike rival Air Canada, Calgary (YYC)-based WestJet has not reached a deal with Ottawa regarding financial aid. 

Canada’s airlines are adding back capacity at a much slower pace than operators in other countries. Data from Aviation Week Network’s CAPA and OAG show that WestJet’s capacity for the week of May 24 is still down approximately 88% compared with 2019 and Air Canada’s capacity is roughly 87% down compared to pre-pandemic levels.  

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