(Black Press Media)

WestJet lays off nearly 7,000 employees, cutting staff in half amid COVID-19 crisis

Calgary-based company the latest airline to be hit by layoffs

WestJet became the latest airline to lay off thousands of employees amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement Tuesday, the company said it laid off 6,900 employees, with CEO Ed Sims saying 90 per cent of those leaving did so “voluntarily.”

That leaves the airline at 7,100 employees, a nearly 50-per cent drop from its usual 14,000. Sims said that took the company back to 2003 staffing levels.

Some of the layoffs, he said, are permanent, while the temporary ones will last at least three months. The news comes as Canada has closed its borders to non-essential travel to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, there are 372,757 cases worldwide and 16,231 deaths. Canada has seen at least 2,100 cases and 25 deaths.

According to WestJet, its executive team took a 50-per cent pay cut and the vice-presidents and directors took a 25-per cent cut.

The news comes days after other airlines announced sweeping layoffs, with Air Canada laying off more than 5,000 flight attendants and Transat AT Inc. temporarily laying off about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada, about 3,600 people.

– With files from The Canadian Press

READ MORE: Air Canada laying off more than 5,000 flight attendants

READ MORE: WestJet flight attendants anticipate sweeping layoffs due to COVID-19

READ MORE: Thousands laid off as airlines struggle with COVID-19 cancellations, travel bans


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