Westjet losing nearly half of its employees due to COVID-19 shutdowns

A WestJet Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrives in Calgary from London on Tuesday, March 17, 2020.Gavin Young / Postmedia NetworkNearly half of Westjet’s 14,000 employees are leaving the company, the airline announced Tuesday.In a statement from president and CEO Ed Sims, the Calgary-based airline said 6,900 employees will be departing the airline, most voluntarily.“Today, 6,900 WestJetters are receiving notices confirming early retirements, early outs and both voluntary and involuntary leaves,” Sims, said describing the news as “devastating.”“The fact that we avoided a potentially worse outcome is testament to the spirit and selfless attitude demonstrated by our people, who have enabled WestJet to continue operating with a collective remaining workforce of 7,100.”Last week, all Canadian airlines announced drastic measures to deal with coronavirus-related drops in bookings and travel restrictions abroad, while shifting their focus towards repatriating Canadians stranded overseas.Westjet announced a week ago the cancellation of all transborder and overseas flights effective this past Monday, and an appeal to staff to take advantage of voluntary leave options such as early retirement.Porter, Transat suspend service, cut jobsCanadian airlines suspend routes, lay off workers over COVID-19The airline also froze capital projects, renegotiated contracts with vendors, and cut pay for senior management and executives.On Monday, the airline announced five additional flights to bring Canadians home from vacation spots in Mexico and Bermuda, in addition to 34 repatriation flights already announced.bpassifiume@postmedia.com On Twitter:@bryanpassifiumeCommentsShare your thoughtscoronavirus