WestJet suspends flights between Toronto and Montreal until next April

WestJet is temporarily suspending flights between Canada’s two biggest cities this winter, but plans to resume service between Toronto and Montreal next spring.

The Calgary-based airline confirmed the news to CBC News on Wednesday, after CTV first reported it.

The once-a-day route has been temporarily cut “as a result of performance and in alignment with our strategic direction to expand our presence in Eastern Canada this winter, with increased non-stop connectivity to Western Canada, as well as providing more affordable leisure and sun travel opportunities across Canada,” the airline said.

WestJet says it plans to resume the service in April of next year.

The move is the latest development after a tumultuous year for the airline industry, as WestJet recently gobbled up vacation carrier Sunwing and folded its discount carrier Swoop.

John Gradek, a former executive at Air Canada who now lectures about aviation management at McGill University, says the move is part of WestJet’s strategy to focus on its strengths in Western Canada.

“So they’re trading off Montreal and Toronto to fly [for] longer haul Canadian flights,” he said in an interview. “They’re using the assets that were in Montreal and Toronto now to fly other long-haul markets [and] focusing in on non-stop services to and from Calgary.”

Air Canada has also recently made adjustments to its routes, with the Montreal-based carrier announcing that an ongoing pilot shortage had forced the airline to cut back a variety of routes out of Calgary, including non-stop service to Ottawa, Halifax, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Cancun and Frankfurt.

Two hubs emerging

Prior to WestJet’s move, the corridor between Toronto and Montreal is among the best served in the country, with four carriers operating more than 360 trips per week, according to aviation data firm Cirium.

But WestJet currently flies 80 per cent fewer trips between Toronto and Montreal than it did in 2019 as the company has slashed routes in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada to refocus on the West.

Gradek says it’s hard to ignore the trend that WestJet is consolidating its efforts in its backyard of Western Canada, while Air Canada beefs up in its home turf in the East.

“It’s an evolution of the typical hub strategy,” Gradek said, where WestJet will orient itself around Calgary while Air Canada centres on Toronto and Montreal.

“We’re getting less competition among the carriers in terms of competition from these fiefdoms that they’ve created for themselves, and there is less choice for Canadian consumers.”


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