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WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it will restore flights to several domestic airports in May or June, a bet that eased travel restrictions and widespread vaccinations will encourage people to resume flying this summer.

WestJet’s return to Charlottetown, Fredericton, Moncton, Sydney, N.S., and Quebec City, as well as other airports, would mark a return to the airline’s preCOVID-19 network of 42 domestic destinations but is dependent on government restrictions being removed and demand from customers, WestJet officials told reporters on Wednesday.

The federal government has made the restoration of regional routes a condition of financial aid for the hard-hit airlines. WestJet said there is no connection between continuing talks with the government and Wednesday’s announcement.

“No one instructed us to do this,” said Andrew Gibbons, WestJet’s director of government relations. “This was a WestJet decision.”

Service to the airports will resume in late June, WestJet said. Flights between Halifax and St. John’s will return on May 6. Additionally, flights will resume in late June to Deer Lake, Nfld., Gander, Nfld., Medicine Hat, London, Ont., St. John’s and Lloydminster, Alta.

Even with the restored flights, Canada’s second-largest airline will be operating at just 10 per cent of its usual capacity.

Canada has closed its border to most non-essential travel, and requires people entering to be tested for the virus and quarantine in a hotel. Ottawa’s advisory against travel has been in place for more than a year in an attempt to limit illness and death from the virus. Several provinces – including those in Atlantic Canada – have closed their borders to most domestic visitors.

John Weatherill, WestJet’s chief commercial officer, told reporters the airline will add flights if tickets sell well. “A deciding factor will be demand,” Mr. Weatherill said. “The demand for these services will occur once the travel restrictions are reduced or removed. Our expectation is that demand will be very high this summer. There are a lot of Canadians who for more than a year now have been unable to see their friends and families. We don’t need to convince people to travel. They want to travel.”

Air Canada has suspended service to 25 of its 60 domestic airports, including Bathurst, N.B., Medicine Hat and Sarnia, Ont. Air Canada has resumed scheduling some service to at least 12 of these destinations by June or July.

WestJet and Air Canada have halted flights to Mexico and the Caribbean at the request of the federal government. Both airlines have laid off thousands of employees and grounded much of their fleet.

WestJet said it was too soon to say if laid-off employees would be recalled to work the restored flights.

The union that represents WestJet flight attendants said it had been told by WestJet that no people would be called back to work as a result. “While this news does not immediately mean recalls for our members, signs of progress and rebuilding are positive, and always welcome,” the Canadian Union of Public Employees said in a statement.

Walter Spracklin, a stock analyst at Royal Bank of Canada, said WestJet’s announcement signals federal financial support for the airline sector could be imminent.

In addition to a demand that regional routes be restored, Ottawa has said any airline receiving support must give refunds to customers whose flights were cancelled because of the pandemic. WestJet has already said it will provide refunds to passengers whose flights were cancelled, but not for those who cancelled their tickets on their own. Mr. Gibbons said this is in line with the policies of airlines in Europe and the United States. Air Canada has given refunds to customers who purchased tickets that qualified, but has not refunded fares in many cases.

WestJet’s Mr. Gibbons would not comment on the state of federal talks, but repeated the airline is not seeking financial aid.

“We are not seeking a traditional bailout. What we have been seeking all along … are policies that enable us to bring our investments to life, that bring our employees back and that drive our travel and tourism sector,” Mr. Gibbons said.

He said he hoped the federal government’s budget presented in April will contain additional support for wages and COVID-19 testing.

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