MONTREAL — Transat AT Inc. has temporarily laid off about 70 per cent of its workforce in Canada, about 3,600 people, as it looks to stop flying on April 1.
The decision comes as non-essential travel around the world comes to a standstill as governments close borders in an effort to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We are very much in agreement with the measures being taken to fight the spread of the virus and protect the public's health," Transat chief executive Jean-Marc Eustache said in a statement.
"As a community, we have to do what is necessary to stop the pandemic."
Transat said Monday some of these layoffs are effective immediately, while others will take effect following advance notice of up to one month. The layoffs include all flight crew personnel.
The company said similar measures are being implemented in the other countries where Transat has employees.
Executives who are not being laid off have accepted voluntary pay cuts, as have members of its board of directors.
Transat said operations are being stopped gradually in order to enable it to repatriate as many of its customers as possible to their home countries.
"At the same time, in order to safeguard the company, we have unfortunately had to proceed with layoffs that affect a significant portion of our employees," Eustache said.
"We are doing this with great sadness and we hope that everyone will be able to return to work as quickly as possible.
Transat said that by March 22, about 40,000, or more than 60 per cent of its customers, had been returned to Canada.
The move by Transat comes as other airlines in Canada slash the number of flights they operate if they are flying at all.
WestJet Airlines Ltd. has halved its domestic capacity and cancelled all transatlantic and U.S. routes for 30 days.
Air Canada has said the majority of international and transborder flights will be gradually suspended by March 31. Its domestic network will continue to serve all the provinces and territories, but the number of airports will be reduced.
Meanwhile, Porter Airlines cancelled flights on all 29 of its planes last week, with plans to resume service June 1.
Transat shareholders voted overwhelmingly last year to approve a takeover of the travel company by Air Canada, however the deal still requires regulatory approval.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 23, 2020.
Companies in this story: (TSX:TRZ, TSX:AC)
The Canadian Press