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WestJet Airlines

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WestJet Airlines

Founded 1996
Focus cities
Frequent-flyer program Subsidiaries
WestJet Encore
Fleet size 108 incl. Encore
Destinations 87 incl. Encore
Company slogan Owners Care[1]
Headquarters Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Key people

Gregg Saretsky (CEO, President)

Clive Beddoe, (Chairman of the Board of Directors, Co-Founder)

WestJet Airlines Ltd. (ninth-largest airline in North America by passengers carried.

WestJet is a public company with more than 9,600 employees,[5] is non-unionized and is not part of any airline alliance. It operates variants of a single aircraft type, all from the Boeing 737 Next Generation family, and its subsidiary WestJet Encore also operates the Bombardier Q400. The airline's headquarters is located adjacent to the Calgary International Airport,[6] and its largest hub, in terms of daily departures, is Toronto Pearson International Airport.

WestJet had passenger revenues of $3.4 billion (CAD) in 2012, and reported annual 2012 earnings of C$1.78 per share, a year-over-year increase of 68% compared with 2011 EPS.[5]


1990s: First flights

Founded by Clive Beddoe, David Neeleman, Mark Hill, Tim Morgan, and Donald Bell, WestJet was based on the low-cost carrier business model pioneered by Southwest Airlines and Morris Air in the United States. Its original routes were all located in Western Canada, which gave the airline its name.

On February 29, 1996, the first WestJet flight (a Boeing 737-200) departed. Initially, the airline served Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Vancouver, and Winnipeg with a fleet of three used Boeing 737-200 aircraft and 225 employees. By the end of that same year, the company had added Regina, Saskatoon, and Victoria to its network.

In mid-September 1996, WestJet's fleet was grounded due to a disagreement with Transport Canada over maintenance schedule requirements. The airline suspended all service for 2 weeks before resuming flights.[7]

In early 1999, Clive Beddoe stepped down as WestJet's CEO and was replaced by former Air Ontario executive Steve Smith. In July 1999, WestJet made its initial public offering of stock at 2.5 million shares, opening at $10 per share.[8] The same year, the cities of Thunder Bay, Grande Prairie, and Prince George were added to WestJet's route map.

In 2000, WestJet CEO Steve Smith was released from WestJet after 18 months in the position, apparently due to differences about management style;[9] Smith went on to head rival Air Canada's low-cost subsidiary Zip. After Smith's departure, Clive Beddoe again became CEO of the company, a position he held until July 2007.[10]

Early 2000s: Domestic expansion

Due to restructuring in the Canadian airline industry resulting from Air Canada's takeover of Canadian Airlines in 2000, WestJet expanded into Eastern Canada, beginning service to the cities of Hamilton and Ottawa, Ontario, as well as Moncton, New Brunswick. The airline selected John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport to be the focus of its Eastern Canadian operations and its main connection point in Eastern Canada.

In 2001, WestJet's expansion continued with routes to Fort McMurray and Comox. It also added Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury, Ontario, as well as Thompson and Brandon, Manitoba, but service to each of these four cities was subsequently withdrawn.

In 2002, the airline also added another two new Eastern Canadian destinations: the Ontario cities of London and Toronto. In April 2003, WestJet added Windsor, Montreal, Halifax, St. John's, and Gander.

WestJet entered into a two-year agreement with Air Transat in August 2003 whereby WestJet aircraft would be filled by Transat's two main tour operators, World of Vacations and Air Transat Holidays. These chartered flights operated largely to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean, and the planes were operated by WestJet crews. This agreement between WestJet and Air Transat was amicably terminated in February, 2009.[11]

In 2004, rival airline Air Canada accused WestJet of industrial espionage and filed a civil suit against WestJet in Ontario Superior Court. Air Canada accused WestJet of accessing Air Canada confidential information via a private website in order to gain a business advantage.[12] On May 29, 2006 WestJet admitted to the charges leveled by Air Canada and agreed to pay C$5.5 million in legal and investigation fees to Air Canada and to donate C$10 million to various children's charities in the names of Air Canada and WestJet.[13]

Mid 2000s: International expansion

In January 2004, WestJet announced that it was moving the focus of its Eastern operations from Hamilton to Toronto the following April, fully moving into the lucrative Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle and tripling the total number of its flights out of Toronto Pearson International Airport.[14]

In 2004, a number of U.S. destinations were added or announced. These included San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, and LaGuardia Airport in New York City.[15]

Palm Springs was added in early 2005 to the company's list of destinations, as was San Diego, while New York-LaGuardia was dropped. In April 2005, they announced new seasonal service to Charlottetown but ceased service to Gander. In fall 2005, Ft. Myers and Las Vegas were added to the growing list of destinations.

In late August 2005, WestJet flew to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, transporting members of a Vancouver-based urban search and rescue team to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.[16]

After rumours and speculation surrounding the implementation of extended-range twin-engine operations (ETOPS), WestJet announced new service to the Hawaiian Islands from Vancouver on September 20, 2005. In December 2005, the airline began flying from Vancouver to Honolulu and Maui.

WestJet's first scheduled service outside Canada and the United States began in 2006, to Nassau, Bahamas. This was considered a huge milestone within the company's long-term destination strategy and was a vital goal for future international market presence.

In September 2006, Sean Durfy took over as President of WestJet from founder Clive Beddoe.[17]

On October 26, 2006, WestJet announced that it had its best quarterly profit to date, of C$52.8 million.

Late 2000s: Continued growth

In 2007, WestJet announced that they would begin flights from Deer Lake Regional Airport in Newfoundland, Saint John in New Brunswick, and Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario. In June 2007, WestJet added seven new international seasonal flights to Saint Lucia, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico as well as a third Hawaiian destination; Kona.

The same year, WestJet commissioned the construction of a new six-storey head office building, next to their existing hangar facility at the Calgary International Airport. The building was constructed following the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, featuring a rainwater retention system and geothermal heating.[18] The first employees moved in during the first quarter of 2009, and the building officially opened the following May.[19] The WestJet Campus building was certified as LEED Gold standard in October 2011.[20]

In May 2008, WestJet launched daily non-stop service to Quebec City. The next month, WestJet commenced seasonal service between Calgary and New York City via Newark Liberty International Airport. In May 2009, the airline launched new seasonal service to the cities of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and Sydney, Nova Scotia; service to Yellowknife was later extended through the winter of 2009-10.

During the 2000s, WestJet made significant gains in domestic market share against Air Canada. In 2000 it held only 7% to Air Canada's 77%, though by the end of 2009 WestJet had risen to 38%, against Air Canada's 55%.[21]

In late April 2009, WestJet temporarily suspended service to several of its destinations in Mexico due to the outbreak of influenza A (H1N1) in the country. The suspension of service to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta lasted from early May until mid-June, with seasonal service to Cancún being restored the following fall.[22]

In July 2009, WestJet announced 11 new international destinations for its winter schedule. These included expanded service to the United States, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, Lihue (Kauai), Hawaii and Miami, Florida. New Caribbean destinations included Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands; St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles; Freeport, Bahamas; as well as the cities of Varadero, Holguín, and Cayo Coco in Cuba. Ixtapa and Cozumel were also added to the list of destinations served in Mexico.

In November 2009, WestJet announced service to the British island territory of Bermuda, which commenced in May 2010.[23] WestJet also resumed seasonal service to Windsor, Ontario that same month.[24]

Early 2010s to Present

In March 2010, Sean Durfy resigned from his position as WestJet's CEO, citing personal reasons.[25] He was replaced by Gregg Saretsky, a former executive at Canadian Airlines and Alaska Airlines and previously Vice-President of WestJet Vacations and Executive Vice-President of Operations.[26][27]

In July 2010 WestJet announced service to Santa Clara, Cuba, New Orleans and Grand Cayman bringing the total number of destinations to 71. Service to New Orleans lasted only one season, and did not return the next year.

In late 2010 WestJet announced it was wet leasing a Boeing 757 aircraft to expand service between Calgary to Honolulu and Maui and Edmonton to Maui, on a seasonal basis.[28][29]

Also that year, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), an independent administrative tribunal of the Government of Canada that regulates airlines, found WestJet's baggage policies to be unreasonable and/or contrary to the requirements of the Canada Transportation Act and/or the Air Transport Regulations on several different occasions.[30][31][32][33][34][35]

On January 26, 2011, after Air Canada terminated California service, WestJet announced plans to enter service to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California from Vancouver and Calgary starting May of the year.[36]

In November 2011 WestJet won an auction for time slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport ushering in a return to service to New York.[37] Details of Westjet's scheduled service to LaGuardia were officially announced in January 2012.[38] In late 2012, WestJet further expanded into the United States by adding Chicago via O'Hare International Airport.

WestJet Encore

Main article: WestJet Encore

WestJet Encore is WestJet's subsidiary regional airline, which commenced operations on June 24, 2013, with a fleet of Bombardier Q400 twin-turboprop aircraft.[39]


Further information: WestJet destinations

WestJet and WestJet Encore currently fly to 87 destinations in 15 countries throughout North America, including 34 cities in Canada and 21 in the United States. WestJet's largest hub in terms of daily departures is Toronto Pearson International Airport, the airline's main connection point in Eastern Canada.

WestJet provides the most Canadian flights to Las Vegas and Orlando, offering non-stop routes (some of them seasonal) from eleven Canadian cities to Orlando and twelve to Las Vegas. Since 2008, WestJet is the largest international carrier, by volume of passengers, flying into Las Vegas.[40][41]

WestJet also serves 19 destinations in the Caribbean and seven in Mexico, some on a seasonal basis.

Largest WestJet Markets by Daily Departures (August 2013)[42]
Rank Airport Departures
1 Toronto, Ontario 99
2 Calgary, Alberta 94
3 Vancouver, BC 56
4 Edmonton, Alberta 50
5 Winnipeg, Manitoba 23

Airline partnerships

In 1999, WestJet was in talks regarding a possible 'feeder' arrangement for Air Canada's network.[43] These talks were apparently discontinued when Air Canada went forward with acquisition of Canadian Airlines the following year.

In 2005, WestJet began a limited interline agreement with Taiwan-based China Airlines, in part to test the company's capability to partner with other carriers.[44]

In August 2006, in a Globe and Mail interview, then-WestJet CEO Sean Durfy stated that WestJet was in talks with Oneworld. Durfy said that, if a deal with Oneworld were reached, it would allow WestJet to maintain its scheduling flexibility;[45] Durfy was later quoted in 2007 saying that a deal for WestJet to join the Oneworld alliance was unlikely.[46] Despite this, WestJet did formalize a deal with Oneworld in November 2008, to partner on sales of travel to corporate and business travelers.[47]

In July 2008 WestJet announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding to build a distribution and codeshare agreement with U.S. based Southwest Airlines. However, in April 2010 WestJet announced that the airline partnership with Southwest Airlines was terminated, in October 2010 WestJet partnered with American Airlines instead.[48]

In 2009 WestJet announced it has been in talks with 70 airlines around the world interested in an interline or codeshare agreement.[49][50][51]

WestJet currently has codeshare agreements with the following airlines:


Current Fleet

The WestJet fleet consists of the following aircraft (as of September 2013):[61]

Aircraft In Service Orders Options Passengers Notes
Boeing 737-600 13 119
Boeing 737-700 69 13 136
Boeing 737-800 21 14 174
Boeing 737 MAX 7 25 126 Deliveries from 2017[62]
Boeing 737 MAX 8 40 162 Deliveries from 2017[62]
Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 NextGen 5 15 25 78 Operated by WestJet Encore
Total 108 107 25

Note: Orders total 108 aircraft but 10 737-700 NG will be removed from the fleet and replaced with the 737-800 NG.

WestJet has an average fleet age of 6.7 years, as of December 2012.[63]

The mainline fleet currently consists exclusively of Boeing 737s, while wholly owned subsidiary Encore flies Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s. 20 examples were originally ordered with options for up to 25 more. The first two examples were delivered in mid-June 2013.[64] Scheduled passenger service on these aircraft began on 24 June 2013.[65] The first Boeing 737-700 delivery took place in 2001, and the first deliveries of Boeing 737-600 and Boeing 737-800 aircraft began in 2005, with the final 737-600 aircraft delivered in September 2006.

Boeing confirmed on August 2, 2007 that WestJet had placed an order for 23 Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft. The order is primarily for Boeing 737-700 but with conversion rights to Boeing 737-800s.[66]

WestJet was to be the Boeing launch customer for the winglets on the 737-600, but announced in their second-quarter 2006 results that they were not going to move ahead with those plans. WestJet CEO Clive Beddoe cited the cost and time associated with their installation was not warranted as they are primarily used for short-haul routes. As a result of the abandonment of the program to install winglets on these aircraft, WestJet incurred a one-time charge of approximately $609,000.

In the winter season, WestJet has temporarily wet leased Boeing 757 aircraft to expand service between Alberta and Hawaii. From February through April 2011, a single aircraft was leased from North American Airlines for this purpose;[28][29] in the winter of 2011-12, a single aircraft was leased from Thomas Cook Airlines.[67] For the winter of 2012-13, this has been expanded to two Thomas Cook aircraft.[68][69] In April 2013, it was announced that WestJet would sell 10 of their oldest 737-700's to SouthWest Airlines, and purchase 10 737-800's to modernize and increase capacity of their fleet.

Retired fleet

It was announced early in 2005 that the Boeing 737-200 fleet would be retired and replaced by newer, more fuel-efficient 737 Next Generation series aircraft. On July 12, 2005, WestJet announced that it had completed the sale of its remaining Boeing 737-200 to Miami-based Apollo Aviation Group.

On January 9, 2006, the last Boeing 737-200 was flown during a fly-by ceremony at the WestJet hangar in Calgary, piloted by WestJet founder Don Bell. The last commercial revenue flight by a WestJet 737-200 was a charter flight from Las Vegas to Calgary on January 9, 2006.

In 2003 and 2004, WestJet donated two of its retiring 737-200s to post-secondary schools in western Canada, one to the British Columbia Institute of Technology[70] and a second to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's Art Smith Aero Centre.[71]

In-flight service

In 2005, WestJet introduced in-flight entertainment from LiveTV on board its 737-700 and -800 fleet. The system utilizes the Bell TV satellite network, and channels include Global TV, CTV, CBS, Citytv, Treehouse TV, ABC, NBC, CBC, TSN and a WestJet Channel, which shows a regional map with the aircraft's location, GPS derived altitude, and groundspeed.[72] WestJet added LiveTV onto their 737-600 aircraft beginning in the 2007/2008 Winter season.

In late 2011, all new aircraft would not have the LiveTV product. Instead, Westjet will install up to 60 Samsung Tablets with prerecorded TV Shows and Movies for passengers to rent at a cost of $10 to $12. LiveTV system will continue to be active while the airline searches for a new inflight entertainment system and technology.

WestJet includes a buy on board meal service program with sandwiches, alcoholic beverages, and some snacks for purchase. In some markets, the sandwiches offered onboard are made by local delis in the departure city (such as the Bread Garden in Vancouver, Spolumbo's in Calgary, and DiRienzo's in Ottawa). Some snacks and non-alcoholic beverages are available for free. WestJet is famous for its light-hearted attitude. In past years on April 1, WestJet issued 'joke' press releases as part of April Fool's Day - an example being the introduction of 'sleeper cabins' in overhead bins.[73]


WestJet's aircraft are painted white except for the lettering on the fuselage, tail, wings and vertical stabilizers.

The tail is divided roughly into slanted thirds, coloured (from front to back) navy blue, white, and teal. This pattern is used on the outside of the blended winglets at the end of the wings while, on the inside, the winglets are painted white with the words in dark blue lettering.

In February 2010 WestJet introduced a special livery on one aircraft, registration C-GWSZ, promoting its customer-service promise, or "Care-antee", in both English and French. This aircraft also features a new tail design.

WestJet Lounges

Beginning in 2006, WestJet began offering lounge access in select Canadian airports.].[74]

Awards and recognitions

  • In 2000, Clive Beddoe, Mark Hill, Tim Morgan and Donald Bell were given the Ernst & Young company's Entrepreneur of the Year award in Canada for their contribution to the Canadian airline industry.[75]
  • In October 2008, WestJet was named one of Alberta's Top Employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc., which was announced by the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.[76]
  • A 2009 poll by Léger Marketing found that WestJet is Canada's preferred airline.[77]
  • WestJet came in first place in the Airline Staff Service Excellence (North America)[78] and second place in the Best Low-Cost Airline (North America)[79] categories at the 2010 World Airline Awards.


External links

  • WestJet official website
  • up! inflight magazine
  • YouTube
  • Twitter


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