WestJet suspends flights amid staff shortage

Omicron is wreaking havoc in the airline and healthcare sectors

WestJet suspends flights amid staff shortage

WestJet has been forced to cut down the number of scheduled flights in January due to dwindling manpower further burdened by the Omicron variant of COVID-19. Harry Taylor, WestJet's interim president and chief executive officer (CEO), described in a statement the impact of the Omicron variant as "rapid and unpredictable," something that they were not as prepared for as initially thought.

"We could not have anticipated the rapid and unpredictable impact of the Omicron variant on our people and operations, coupled with prolonged frigid temperatures across Western Canada and global staffing shortages," he said. "Despite all contingency planning, in addition to hiring back thousands of WestJetters to safely support peak operations, we find ourselves no longer able to predictably resource our planned schedule due to Omicron impact and have made the difficult decision to consolidate approximately 15% of scheduled flights through to January 31, 2022."

According to Taylor, the company moved to ensure that there are enough available frontline staff and third-party service providers. The CEO added that "national alignment and standardization" in the sector is also needed to remove what he said are "inconsistent provincial isolation requirements" that blamed for the restricted staffing abilities.

"We are actively engaging with the federal and provincial governments in light of evolving scientific data available on the Omicron variant, as changes would aid us, along with our sector, in more effectively scheduling crew and employees, while maintaining essential air service for Canadian communities."

Read more: Vaccine mandates delayed amid labour shortage fears

Healthcare shortage

The airline and the aviation sector are not the only ones affected by staffing issues, as healthcare workers in some areas have been asked to reduce isolation so they can return to work. Some are even asked to continue working despite testing positive for COVID-19, The National Post reported. According to Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé, they will be allowing some COVID-positive health workers to stay on the job on a case-by-case basis in order to keep the healthcare system running.

"The reality is that we have more and more sick people and fewer and fewer nursing staff," he said as quoted by the CBC. "This is what we have to do if we want our society to continue to safely function."

The health minister described the move as the "best alternative" than not providing care at all, as the province is left no choice under the "urgent and critical" situation.

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