Canada's WestJet Airlines restores routes as COVID-19 shots raise hope of summer travel

Allison Lampert
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: WestJet airline signage is pictured at Vancouver's international airport in Richmond

By Allison Lampert

(Reuters) -WestJet Airlines is restoring some suspended domestic routes beginning in June, as executives hope that a pickup in COVID-19 vaccinations can salvage summer travel, Canada's second-largest carrier said on Wednesday.

While Canada has trailed the United States in the pace of its vaccine rollout, supplies are expected to ramp up over the next two weeks, and Canada's top vaccine coordinator expects there should be enough to give every citizen a first dose by the end of June.

"That's the type of encouraging news that's allowed us to make today's announcement," Andy Gibbons, WestJet's director for government relations, told reporters.

Onex Corp-owned Westjet would resume flights to five airports serving Atlantic Canada and Quebec, beginning on June 24.

Canada's largest carrier, Air Canada, also plans to resume summer service to certain destinations that are seasonal or were suspended due to COVID-19.

Gibbons called for government to transition away by May 1 from crippling requirements that oblige international travelers to self-isolate for up to three days in a hotel, before completing a 14-day quarantine.

He said WestJet's announcement was unrelated to a government demand to protect regional routes as part of talks to reach a financial aid package for the aviation sector.

Calgary-based WestJet, which currently operates at around 10% of pre-pandemic traffic, is restoring routes of "its own volition," said its chief commercial officer, John Weatherill.

Later in the day, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged in a radio interview that the country needed to move faster on vaccinations, but he was optimistic about summer.

"We are going to have all adults fully vaccinated by September and, looking at the horizons some of the provinces have put forward, I think it's possible that many, many Canadians will have their first doses by the time summer rolls around."

(Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal. Additional reporting by Allison Martel in Toronto and Julie Gordon in Ottawa; editing by John Stonestreet and Jonathan Oatis)