WestJet Airlines Ltd. is bracing for an “immediate and substantial” increase in demand after the Canadian government decided to remove pre-entry COVID-19 testing requirements for vaccinated travelers.
Ottawa announced Thursday that as of April 1, travelers arriving in Canada by air, land or water from any country are no longer required to provide a negative COVID-19 test result to allowed entry, as long as they have had at least two doses of an approved vaccine.
The move follows months of lobbying by the Canadian tourism industry, which has argued that the requirement to seek and pay for a rapid antigen test before boarding a plane home is an unnecessary barrier to travel. family and work travel.
WestJet’s chief commercial officer John Weatherill said in an interview on Thursday: “Our view is that the desire to travel persisted during COVID, but it did not translate into demand for bookings because of limitations. regulations have been applied to industry”.
In February, the federal government announced that air and land travelers who have received the dual vaccinations do not need to present a negative result from a molecular test, such as a PCR test, before Departure to Canada.
The government also lifted the mandatory self-isolation requirement for unvaccinated children under 12 years old returning home, as well as issued general travel advice for overseas trips.
Weatherill said WestJet has seen a spike in bookings as a result of these changes, meaning the March break is set to be the airline’s busiest period since before the Great Depression. translation begins.
“In some cases, we are approaching the level of demand that we saw in 2019, before the pandemic, and that is really encouraging for us. It’s going to be a pretty busy spring break and travel season for us,” said Weatherill.
Earlier this week, WestJet announced it would restore 94% of its pre-pandemic routes over the summer. Most notably, the airline is restoring and even adding capacity to transatlantic schedules – adding incremental service between Halifax and European destinations such as Paris, London, Glasgow and Dublin; as well as non-stop service between Rome, Italy and WestJet’s home hub of Calgary.
Weatherill said WestJet’s investments in its European network speak to the airline’s confidence in what the removal of restrictions and barriers will do to travel demand this summer.
“That’s the region for us that’s currently booking the fastest. We have the most bookings at the moment, compared to pre-pandemic, in the European region,” he said. “I think it’s really about pent-up demand.”
Many March holiday travelers made last-minute bookings this year, Weatherill said, a trend that has persisted throughout COVID and is likely to increase in 2022 due to the variable’s rapid rise and fall. Omicron bodies.
“But I would expect that as we recover from COVID we will see that trend reverse and people will go back to a more normal booking curve,” he said.
However, Weatherill added that the pandemic has fundamentally changed the way airlines plan their networks and schedules.
“We learned a little more with each wave, and we became much more flexible and adaptable,” he said. “We’ve been able to adjust our schedule as required depending on what’s going on with the travel restrictions or the virus itself… and as we move forward, it will be the same.”
This Canadian Press report was first published on March 18, 2022.