The good news for Kim MacLeod was discovering WestJet will keep flying to Yellowknife, via Edmonton, despite the airline slashing half of its domestic schedule.
The bad news came when she looked at the price. Getting home to Yellowknife from Halifax could now cost her more than $1,000 – around twice what she had initially expected to pay.
“I almost cried. No, I did cry,” MacLeod said.
Like many other people during the coronavirus pandemic, MacLeod is trapped in an awkward position.
On the one hand, she is “safe and sound” in Nova Scotia, caring for her elderly parents. On the other, her husband and her home are in the NWT.
“What a dilemma,” she said. “Spend a big chunk of change and get back to Yellowknife while I still can – then self-isolate, which I am entirely OK with – so I can be with my husband, or remain in Nova Scotia with my parents?”
MacLeod was originally planning to fly home on April 28. The airfare quoted by WestJet, for a seat in its Plus category, was $618 excluding taxes.
Now, if she wants to move that up and get home sooner with a pandemic going on, it’ll cost her $1,084 to fly economy on April 1.
“The fares were not nearly so high last week, I am quite sure,” said Macleod.
“These are frightening times.”
WestJet ‘keeping lifelines open’
WestJet has joined Air Canada and others in stripping back its domestic flight schedule, reducing the number of services into and out of Yellowknife.
Until further notice, there will be one daily WestJet flight from Calgary to Yellowknife and back. All other WestJet flights to and from the NWT are cancelled.
The airline said it was “committed to keeping critical economic lifelines open” but had to drop half of its domestic schedule as the pandemic continues to wipe out demand for air travel.
“We have proudly served Canadians for more than 24 years and we are committed to providing them critical economic connectivity during this difficult time,” said Ed Sims, WestJet’s president and chief executive, in a statement.
“Frequency may be reduced, but we pledge to be there for Canadians as long as possible to keep connections open and vital goods moving across our country.”
Air Canada has already taken similar action, dropping its Yellowknife-Calgary route starting Monday and terminating its Yellowknife-Vancouver service from the end of March onward. The Yellowknife-Edmonton route so far remains unaffected.
Canadian North has dropped the frequency of its route between Inuvik, Yellowknife, and Edmonton.
Within the NWT, airlines like Air Tindi have been forced to make drastic cuts to their schedule and staffing in a bid to remain operational.
The NWT government says it is raising the issue of how to help preserve northern airlines with the federal government.
Meanwhile, larger airports in the territory have made adjustments as all returning passengers are told to self-isolate in one of Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik, or Fort Smith.
Yellowknife Airport lowered its customs gates on the weekend as the NWT’s border closure was announced, sealing off the main arrivals hall. Desks and chairs have been laid out for people to fill out self-isolation plans and submit them to health officials.