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WestJet to lay off 1,700 pilots as airline crisis deepens amid pandemic

BY , Apr 16, 2020 3:10 PM - REPORT AN ERROR

A WestJet airlines plane at the Ottawa airport Wednesday June 26, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it will lay off 1,700 pilots as the company continues to struggle with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Air Line Pilots Union says 700 employees received layoff notices effective May 1, with 1,000 more kicking in on June 1, depending on seniority.

The layoffs come amid an ongoing collapse of global travel triggered by border shutdowns and tanking demand, with WestJet and Air Canada slashing the vast majority of their flights through April and May.

WestJet calls the impact ``colossal'' and says the layoffs are a ``last resort'' that make up part of broader cost reduction measures.

One week ago, the Calgary-based company announced it would bring back nearly 6,400 laid off workers to its payroll using Ottawa's emergency wage subsidy program.

The earlier layoffs did not affect pilots, who had signed a memorandum of understanding to stay on board through April.

WestJet says the 1,700 laid-off pilots will be placed on inactive status and be able to access the federal wage subsidy.

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