FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – WestJet held a virtual restart roundtable discussion last week to discuss the state of air travel to and from Fort St. John.

According to the presentation, WestJet managed to maintain service to all of its British Columbia stations — including Fort St. John — despite being unprofitable.

In British Columbia alone, $4.5 billion in travel revenue has been lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now that WestJet is in an accelerated growth period, the air carrier expects to grow back to the levels of 2013. During the height of the pandemic’s impact on air travel, Westjet was flying at the levels of 2002, when the company was in its infancy.

As a result of the increased growth, the company says it will be increasing its Boeing 787 flight hours, most of which are out of the Calgary hub. According to data from the presentation, flight hours are expected to increase four-fold from July to December.

Some more encouraging news from the presentation includes the figure of 63 per cent of Canadians who plan on one post-COVID-19 splurge for travel, and 61 per cent who plan to travel domestically.

“A majority of those actually intend to travel to B.C., so that’s a really positive statistic for our travel and tourism partners in British Columbia,” said Lauren Stewart, Senior Manager of Public Affairs at WestJet.

Some more figures from the presentation include the impact of COVID-19 on travel and tourism. According to WestJet, COVID-19 caused a 90 per cent drop In demand, an 80 per cent drop in capacity, an 82 per cent drop in guest head count, and a 70 per cent drop in WestJetter headcount.

The result of this means a 15.2 per cent drop in B.C. tourism industry employment, 71 per cent drop in accommodation revenues, and a $15 billion travel revenue loss in the national tourism industry.

Entering its 25th year, Andy Gibbons, WestJet’s Vice President of Government Relations says the company has evolved “in a pretty profound way.”

“The emergence of a global carrier in Western Canada, which has not had a global carrier since 1999 when Canadian Airlines went bankrupt, it’s something that impacts all communities across Western Canada. It impacts your connectivity, your access to Europe, your ability to attract investment, all of those different elements,” said Gibbons.