As Canada’s airlines slowly ramp up service after the industry virtually shut down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, WestJet says it will resume flights between Ottawa and Calgary next month while boosting its routes between the nation’s capital and Toronto.
The country’s second-largest airline said Monday it’s planning to restore six flights a week between YOW and Alberta’s biggest city as of July 5. WestJet said it’s also more than doubling the number of flights between Ottawa and Toronto from 13 per week each way to 28, with four flights daily scheduled in each direction.
Currently, Toronto and Halifax are the only cities the Calgary-based carrier serves from Ottawa.
An airport spokesperson called the additional flights “great news” for YOW, which has seen its overall passenger numbers plummet due to efforts to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Fewer than 9,000 passengers passed through the Ottawa terminal’s gates last month, a drop of 98 per cent from a year earlier, thanks largely to a ban on all international flights and most flights from the United States.
To put that number into context, more than 14,000 travellers used the airport on an average day in February.
Just 535 passengers on Canada-U.S. flights passed through the airport in May, compared with nearly 56,000 a year earlier. International traffic, which accounted for more than 18,000 passengers in May 2019, was down to zero last month.
Airport Authority president and CEO Mark Laroche recently told OBJ the facility might have to borrow up to $150 million over the next two years just to cover its operating expenses.
WestJet says its expanded flight schedule will run through Aug. 4 and is part of the airline’s overall plan to double its total number of flights from June as summer vacation season heats up.
“Today’s schedule reflects our commitment to orderly and safe travel while providing steps to allow Canadians to get out, explore and take part in critical economic activities like staying in hotels, eating out, visiting tourist attractions or simply just travelling to see friends and family,” WestJet chief commercial officer Arved von zur Muehlen said in a statement.
“Jurisdictions around the world are opening, allowing citizens to begin flying once again, which is kickstarting their economies for recovery.”