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WestJet temporarily suspends flights between Toronto and Montreal

WestJet is temporarily removing service between Toronto and Montreal for the winter, giving Canadian travellers fewer options.

WestJet spokesperson Madison Kruger said, however, that the route will return in April.

"The WestJet Group remains extremely committed to Eastern Canada," said Kruger in an email.

She added that WestJet is increasing its presence in eastern Canada with more non-stop flights to western Canada, "as well as providing more affordable leisure and sun travel opportunities across Canada."

Frank Fitzgerald is a loyal WestJet customer and was shocked to hear that the route he was planning on taking in the winter was suspended. He found out when he was trying to book flights for him and his wife to Barbados, which go through Toronto.

He and his wife collect points with WestJet to offset prices for trips and says he is not happy about losing out on that discount when he flies next year.

"We've been collecting them for years. It saves us quite a few dollars when it comes time to fly, and had somebody let us know six months, nine months, a year ago, that WestJet was, for whatever reason was backing out of their flights, then I most probably would have associated myself with another airline," he said in an interview. 

Fitzgerald said he has sent emails to every political representative at the federal and provincial levels to plead his case. He has not yet received an answer. 

"It seems strange at a time when penalties are being talked about that an airline pulls out during snowtime only," he said.

"At a time when everybody's talking about inflation and prices going up, if one airline backs out, it makes sense that the other airline can charge what they want and prices will increase. There's all sorts of things that smells wrong with this."

WestJet announced at the end of September that it would be folding its budget Sunwing Airlines into the main WestJet brand. WestJet bought the Toronto-based Sunwing in May. 

It is not the first time WestJet has reduced eastern routes in the past year. In May, the airline reduced flights between Ottawa and Toronto to one flight per day at 5:30 p.m.

In 2022, direct flights between Ottawa and Halifax were suspended in the fall, and there were no winter flights out of destinations including Charlottetown, Fredericton and Quebec City. 

Aviation expert John Gradek said Air Canada and WestJet have gradually cut services to battle against low-fare airlines, such as Flair and Lynx, from taking customers.

"Both Air Canada and WestJet are saying, 'Our home turf is our home turf. We are not going to get displaced on our home turf, so we're going to build these moats around Calgary and these moats around Toronto and Montreal that are basically impenetrable," he said.

"Good luck trying to basically bash your way into our headquarters, into our fiefdoms."

The reason, Gradek explained, was due to a shortage of pilots and to the airlines' respective fleets.

"I think this is a stopgap measure by WestJet that once it gets over the hurdle of deliveries of these new airplanes and gets over the hurdle of pilots that we'll see them back," he said. 

Air Transat, for its part, already centralized its operations in eastern Canada to the Toronto and Montreal hubs.

"While we do currently operate domestic flights, Air Transat will not be flying domestically for winter 2023-2024, as our codeshare agreements serve this purpose," said spokesperson Bernard Cote.

"We, of course, remain aware of how the industry is evolving and remain ready to capitalize on new opportunities." Top Stories

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