PRINCE ALBERT -- West Wind Aviation, which provides transportation to many communities in the province's north has laid off workers, including pilots in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company also reduced the hours of remaining staff in air transportation operations.

Sixteen pilots are among those laid off from West Wind according to national Unifor representative Cam Britton.

“They are disappointed at getting the lay-offs however they understand it’s a worldwide problem and the reason behind it. They are hopeful it won’t be too long,” said Britton.

West Wind’s Transwest Air division also laid off pilots and ground staff however those positions are non-unionized and Britton said he couldn’t speak to specific numbers.

“At the present time, we’ve either laid off or reduced hours by 35 to 40 per cent for our staff. And that can change as our business continues to drop. And that’s from a workforce of approximately 300 full and part-time staff,” Tracy Young-McLean, the company's human resources vice president, said.

The company has reduced its flight schedules by two-thirds until at least Apr. 13.

Young-McLean said some flights are still operating to the north however the schedule is reduced by 80 percent.

The communities of Black Lake and Fond Du Lac are closed to air travel as those communities self-isolate.

Young-McLean said, workforce transportation charter flights for mining companies are still runnin and medivac programs are still fully operational to transport people for medical and health purposes.

West Wind Aviation Group includes West Wind Aviation, Transwest Air, Northern Shield Helicopters and Snowbird Aviation Services.