WestJet (WS, Calgary) has announced it will further prune its network to about 80% of last year's level, including a 93% reduction in international operations, in response to what it termed the "hasty" introduction of new testing requirements by the Canadian government.

The airline said that in tandem with the network cuts, around 1,000 staff members will be stood down through a combination of furloughs, temporary layoffs, unpaid leaves and reduced hours. It will also freeze hiring.

"Immediately following the federal government's inbound testing announcement on December 31, and with the continuation of the 14-day quarantine, we saw significant reductions in new bookings and unprecedented cancellations. The entire travel industry and its customers are again on the receiving end of incoherent and inconsistent government policy," President and Chief Executive Ed Sims said.

The airline was responding to the new PCR testing requirement announced by the government on January 3 and in force since January 7. The new rule requires all passengers arriving in Canada to have a negative PCR test taken less than 72 hours prior to departure. Notwithstanding that obligation, arriving travellers still need to quarantine for 14 days.

"We have advocated over the past 10 months for a coordinated testing regime on Canadian soil, but this hasty new measure is causing Canadian travellers unnecessary stress and confusion and may make travel unaffordable, unfeasible and inaccessible for Canadians for years to come," Sims said.

The carrier said that following the new round of cuts, it would only operate around 150 departures a day, a level last seen in 2001.