Good afternoon and thank you, Mr. Chair and honourable members of this committee, for the invitation to speak with you today.
I'm here today to provide the committee with some details on the operational response to COVID-19 and share with you the safety measures we have implemented for our people and for our guests.
My name is Jared Mikoch-Gerke, and I'm the manager of aviation security for the WestJet group of companies. In my capacity, I serve as a subject matter expert on legislation and regulatory policy across our global network.
The COVID-19 crisis has had a devastating effect on the global aviation sector that no country or carrier has been immune to. Prior to this crisis, WestJet had 14,000 employees operating 700-plus flights carrying roughly 70,000 guests per day throughout our growing international network.
As of today, we've had to park two-thirds of our fleet. Our workforce has been reduced by 9,000, and we are operating about 100 flights a day carrying less than 10% of the number of guests that we normally would have. We haven't flown a scheduled flight to the United States or international locations since March 23. While we believe that we have now entered what we are calling the stability phase of this crisis, we don't anticipate a true recovery to pre-COVID levels until 2022.
Later in my comments, I hope to impart some considerations for the committee on how we can collectively work together on recovery efforts.
What has been highlighted by this crisis, however, is the steadfast reminder that commercial aviation is an essential service and a crucial element of critical infrastructure, which is now more than ever important for the transportation of critical workers and goods. While we are operating a reduced schedule, we have remained committed to serving every market in Canada that we did prior to this crisis, and we have increased our cargo capacity to transport critical medical goods and PPE. Safety above all is paramount to us, and we have been unwavering in our commitment to ensuring the safety of our employees and guests during these challenging times.
We have continuously evolved our response throughout this crisis, and right from the outset we took actions to ensure that our people were protected right across the organization. At our head office here in Calgary, at the beginning of this crisis we seamlessly moved all our employees who are not operationally critical to working remotely. For those who were needed in our office space, we implemented physically spaced workstations and made available hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, gloves and masks for all employees. We further implemented enhanced frequent cleaning of all high-touch points and fogging of our office spaces.
In our operations control centre, we have 24-7 cleaners embedded, who are continually cleaning high-touch areas and providing fresh desks for shift change. For our technical operations team, we've provided them all the necessary PPE, along with half- and full-face respirators. We implemented temperature checks for all personnel, to be recorded on arrival to work, and we require that face masks be worn when unable to socially distance during maintenance tasks. We have increased the sterilization and cleaning of all work areas and touch points.
For our airports and in-flight teams, we provided gloves, masks, disposable gowns, safety glasses, face shields and hand sanitizer. We implemented enhanced surface and lavatory cleaning on board our aircraft, and we have dedicated a lavatory for crew members where possible. We modified our crew accommodations practices and have assigned crew to in-terminal hotels, where possible, to prevent the need for transportation. In airports, we worked closely with our airport partners to ensure enhanced cleaning of any common-use areas, and we have increased our cleaning frequency of major touch-point areas of service.
To date, we have had 29 employees who have tested positive for COVID-19. We are thankful that none had serious health complications and the majority have since recovered completely.
I want to take this opportunity to provide our thanks and give enormous appreciation to all WestJet front-line workers, who have risen to the challenge and continue to provide their exemplary caring, friendly and compassionate guest service in the face of this crisis.
For our guests, we recognized right away that it is critical we make sure they feel safe when travelling with us. Regardless of why our guests are flying, whether it be reporting for work as needed or to be with a sick loved one, we exceeded the health measures recommended and, on our own accord, implemented a very rigorous and consistent approach to their health and safety.
We worked collaboratively with Transport Canada on the quick implementation of all orders in council and emergency orders for the implementation of a health questionnaire and consistent observations of any ill guests and, more recently, the requirement for guests and crew members to wear masks at all times during travel.
In addition to these requirements, we implemented seat blocking to provide social distancing on board our aircraft during the most critical months of this crisis. We enhanced the cleaning of our aircraft to include disinfection of all guest contact surfaces and included electrostatic fogging of every aircraft during overnight stops and on long turns in our hub cities.
We implemented temperature checks for all guests in alignment with the WHO standards and provided them with disinfectant wipes during boarding to allow them to personally wipe down their areas as they chose. We also modified our food and beverage service to reduce touch points by removing service on short flights and providing guests with individually packaged goods on board for longer flights, and we removed all non-essential seatback literature.
Each of our aircraft is equipped with hospital-grade HEPA filters that capture over 99.99% of all contaminants, including coronaviruses, and the cabin air is fully refreshed every six minutes. We truly believe that Canadian aviation has led the way internationally in the implementation of an industry-leading biosecurity plan.
The safety of our guests and employees is without hesitation our top priority. In addition to the physical measures we have taken, we have committed to being open and transparent throughout this rapidly evolving situation. We were the only airline in Canada to publicly share, directly on our website and through our social channels, flights that were identified by the Public Health Agency of Canada as having a positive case on board. We specified the affected rows, which are considered close contact and may be at risk of exposure.
Any aircraft where an individual was identified as displaying symptoms, or that was determined to have had a positive case on board, was removed from service to have a full, detailed cleaning and disinfection, along with replacement of the HEPA filter. There has not been a single case of COVID-19 transmission on board a commercial flight. This is a true testament to the sterile environment on board aircraft and the enhanced disinfection and health measures that have been put in place since this crisis began.
The aviation industry is unbelievably resilient and adaptable. When border closures started to transpire, we were able to quickly stand down and rightsize our business for the incredible downturn that occurred. The restart and recovery, though, is much more complex and has many incumbent challenges. Our first priority was ensuring that we have consistent and scalable health measures in place to ensure the safety of our crew and our guests, which we do. We are fully compliant with the report recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization council's aviation recovery task force, or CART.
As we look towards recovery, we require the support of all levels and departments of government to utilize the measures that we have taken as part of a plan to reopen commercial aviation and reinstill consumer confidence. We need to work towards a national strategy and eliminate inconsistent provincial border restrictions to allow for the free movement of Canadians across the country.
We also believe that it is in Canada's interest to develop bilateral or multilateral agreements on sterile corridors and remove quarantine requirements on these routes. These would be routes between international locations that have done an effective job in controlling COVID-19, similar to the discussions occurring on the trans-Tasman bubble between Australia and New Zealand, or what has occurred for travel within the EU.
We are confident that we are well prepared for Canadians to return to travel safely. We are now calling on government to help do so and to develop a scalable plan for reopening. As more important elements, such as effective testing and contact tracing, become available, we stand ready to assist and implement further measures that come with reduced travel restrictions as we all adapt to our new normal.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your questions and further discussion.