WestJet statement on flight 652

Since April 2020, Transport Canada has required all travellers over the age of two to wear a proper face covering on board the aircraft. As always, we remain committed to the highest safety standard and are obligated to adhere to Transport Canada’s regulations. This policy is in place for the safety and well-being of everyone. Our recent introduction of a further zero tolerance policy whereby non-compliant travellers receive a warning followed by a potential suspension of travel on WestJet was implemented to put further power behind the legislation to ensure that everyone is taking safety seriously.

Recently on a red eye (overnight) flight from Calgary to Toronto, our cabin crew members approached a family travelling with two children (one under the age of two and one over two) and requested that the child over the age of two wear a mask as required by regulation. After multiple requests from our crew, the parents remained non-compliant and the family was asked to voluntarily deplane. At no time was a request made by our crew to mask a child under the age of two. This process is a normal course of action so that the other guests on the aircraft can continue on their way while we work through the situation. As examples, this process can happen whether a guest refused to stop talking on a cell phone, refused to store their laptop or refused to wear their seatbelt. The reports and videos circulating online do not represent an accurate depiction of what took place nor of the timeline of events.

For the safety of everyone on board, once that decision is made it is non-reversable, regardless if a guest decides to suddenly show compliance. As per our normal process, when a guest refuses to deplane voluntarily, our crew will request the presence of authorities to assist. As would be standard procedure while an active investigation is ongoing, the travel privileges of those involved have been suspended until the investigation is complete.

Our goal was to operate flight 652 that evening and ensure guests waiting to depart at a very late time of night could get to their destination on time. The red eye flight was scheduled to depart at 12:05 a.m. and after taking a 30-minute delay, other guests on board became upset with the situation and our crew was no longer comfortable operating the flight. At the late hour, we were unable to find a replacement crew to operate this flight which led to the subsequent cancellation of flight 652. We fully support our operating crew and this decision.

We recognize that this was a very unfortunate situation. We have a responsibility to enforce regulations and the public has a responsibility to adhere to them. We have implemented a myriad of safety and hygiene measures to ensure the safety of our travellers and employees during this pandemic. Our frontline crews are taking extra precautions and following strict protocols and processes to ensure the safety of our guests including adhering to temperature checks before work, wearing masks during all required times, washing their hands regularly. We believe that the travelling public too has a large role to play in our safety commitment by adhering to the regulations that we must follow.

It can be challenging for young children to keep their masks on. This is why our cabin crew and airports teams are trained and knowledgeable on regulations and work with our guests to find solutions to ensure the safety of all. All of our new policies go through a period of review during the implementation stage to assess their pragmatism and to ensure we maintain the safety of our own people as well as our guests. We are in constant contact with Transport Canada to provide input and receive information on the regulations as they are updated.

We have implemented our zero-tolerance policy on masks to ensure the health and well-being of all travellers as they begin to fly once again. With these regulations and the highly enhanced health and hygiene measures we have in place; our cabin crew and airports teams have assisted us in safely flying more than 725,000 guests on more than 19,400 flights during this challenging time. We appreciate the cooperation and understanding of the travelling public to ensure we can operate safely.