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Airline Announces Major Cuts to Staff as Demand Dwindles

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The second-largest airline in Canada announced Tuesday over half of its employees would be leaving the company as the coronavirus outbreak continues to cause a decline in demand.

According to The Associated Press, WestJet CEO Ed Sims revealed around 6,900 of the 14,000 employees at the airline have either retired early, resigned or were laid off. The carrier announced 90 percent of departing workers did so voluntarily.

Sims said the decision was made to cut costs and stabilize the airline as it temporarily suspended all international flights for 30 days and dramatically cut back on domestic service.

“It is through these WestJetters’ sacrifices that we can preserve a core of people who will remain employed to prepare for the moment when the situation stabilizes, and we can look to rise again,” Sims said in a statement.

WestJet asked employees last week to decide how they wanted to help the carrier survive the economic hardships caused by the coronavirus, including unpaid leave of absence, early retirement, voluntary resignation, reduced workweek or reduced pay.

Sims went on to say the airline’s executive team took a 50 percent pay cut and vice presidents and directors took a 25 percent pay cut. The carrier continues to work with the federal government about possible support.

Canadian airline Air Canada also announced its pilot union said up to 600 of its members will go on unpaid leave in the coming months due to the pandemic, while U.S. carriers are drafting plans to temporarily stop flying entirely.

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