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WestJet to lay off more than 3,300 workers under restructuring plan

A pilot taxis a Westjet Boeing 737-700 plane to a gate after arriving at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., on Feb. 3, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it will lay off 3,333 employees as part of major restructuring amid the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated the travel industry.

The company says it will consolidate call centre activity in Alberta, restructure its office and management staff and contract out operations at all but four of the 38 Canadian airports where it operates.

WestJet CEO Ed Sims says the changes are “unavoidable” as the Calgary-based company contends with “the biggest crisis in the history of aviation.”

The pandemic has seen the airline park two-thirds of its fleet after border shutdowns prompted it to suspend most of its schedule – including all international trips – in late March.

The company says a priority in selecting airport partners will be preferential hiring interviews for some of the 2,300 WestJet airport workers now facing layoffs.

WestJet, which went private after Toronto-based Onex Corp. bought the publicly traded company, had employed 14,000 workers just before the pandemic struck in March, but now has a payroll of only 4,500.