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WestJet flight attendants anticipate layoffs due to COVID-19

Last Updated Mar 13, 2020 at 6:28 pm EST

A pilot taxis a Westjet Boeing 737-700 plane to a gate after arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014. The union representing WestJet flight attendants is expecting layoffs of more than 50 per cent as the number of flight cancellations continues to spiral amid the COVID-19 outbreak.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

CALGARY – The union representing WestJet flight attendants is expecting layoffs of more than 50 per cent of its staff as the number of flight cancellations continues to mount amid the COVID-19
outbreak.

An internal memo sent to union officials and obtained by The Canadian Press says that travellers are rebooking “in such massive numbers” that the situation became grave “overnight.”

Chris Rauenbusch, president of CUPE 4070, which represents WestJet cabin crews, says that daily conversations with senior management alerted him to the “severe” situation, which has also seen new bookings dry up.

He says that as recently as Wednesday, job reductions of only 12 per cent seemed likely. Since then, however, the U.S. has implemented a ban on most travel from Europe; business trips, large gatherings and office commutes have dropped off, and institutions from the National Hockey League to Broadway have suspended their seasons.

Rauenbusch says one flight from Vancouver to Los Angeles this morning that had booked 150 passengers closed its doors with just 12 onboard.

WestJet was not able to respond immediately to a request for comment.