WestJet adding YOW-Victoria route to schedule

WestJet plane

As Ontario’s economy starts to gradually reopen from COVID-induced shutdowns, WestJet announced Friday that it is adding a new route to its schedule of Ottawa flights.

The country’s second-largest airline says it’s introducing once-weekly direct service from YOW to Victoria beginning Saturday. The move came as WestJet also said it was restarting nine routes from Toronto and London, Ont., to various Canadian cities before the end of the month.

“We continue to work towards the restoration of our pre-COVID domestic network to ensure that when our guests are ready to travel, we are there for them,” the carrier’s chief commercial officer, John Weatherill, said in a statement.

WestJet also offers non-stop flights to four other Canadian centres from Ottawa: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton and Toronto.

The additional route should come as welcome news to the Ottawa Airport, which is facing the biggest cash crunch in its history as passenger volumes have plummeted during the pandemic. Roughly two dozen flights a day now serve the airport, compared with about 110 pre-COVID. 

As a result, the airport – which relies on improvement fees charged to passengers as well as terminal and landing fees, concession revenues and parking fees for most of its revenues – racked up a net loss of $51.2 million in 2020 and expects to incur an even bigger deficit this year.

Other carriers say they’re also adding routes to Ottawa in anticipation of an uptick in passenger traffic as COVID case numbers fall and people start feeling more comfortable with air travel.

In April, low-cost air carrier Flair Airlines said it plans to add twice-weekly flights between Ottawa and Kelowna, B.C., to its growing list of routes that are slated to start service again this summer.