"We are now seeing the benefits of our new strategy coming to life across Canada,” said WestJet’s CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech, providing a “State of the Airline” address to the Calgary Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday (April 12).
Following up on last year’s announcement to refocus on Western Canada, von Hoensbroech said WestJet has seen double-digit capacity growth across most major and mid-sized airports in the west.
This included introducing 20 new routes and three new destinations between Western Canada and the U.S., including non-stop flights to Washington, Detroit and Minneapolis, and new routes added to Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Nashville and Seattle.
Domestic & sun flying
In regards to its domestic schedule, von Hoensbroech noted a 13 per cent increase in total capacity between Eastern and Western Canada.
WestJet, notably, has suspended some routes within Eastern and Atlantic Canada, but it has also established new direct connections to Western Canada, increasing some access to leisure and sun destinations.
von Hoensbroech touched on WestJet’s proposed acquisition of Sunwing Airlines and Sunwing Vacations, which received a green light from Ottawa last month.
The acquisition will result in enforceable terms and conditions, such as extending Sunwing vacation packages to five new Canadian cities, maintaining capacity on routes most affected by the merger and increasing regional connectivity.
"I want to be clear on this point, we will be growing in the East,” von Hoensbroech said. “Our growth in the East will focus on point-to-point travel to Western Canada, and all elements of leisure travel. WestJet's position as Eastern Canada's leisure airline will be further strengthened once the acquisition of Sunwing is concluded."
WestJet says the Boeing 737 “remains the backbone” of its fleet. It will also add the fuel efficient 737-10, “which has one of the lowest costs per seat among mid-range aircraft.”
The airline's CEO spoke on advancing WestJet’s cost advantage over competitors.
"We are returning to being the friendly, reliable and affordable airline Canadians love. With this plan, we are focusing on what made WestJet successful when then airline was first introduced to Canada – operating as a stronger, more resilient low-cost carrier delivering a modern experience to our guests at an affordable price," said von Hoensbroech.
WestJet has introduced an Operational Excellence program aimed at re-designing the passenger experience across all touchpoints of a potential disruption throughout the travel journey, with a focus on digital enhancements, IT infrastructure management and operational resilience.
This program – first announced with an acknowledgement of the travel chaos that plagued the winter holidays – also led to the creation of a new role at WestJet.
Colleen Tynan, in March, was named vice-president of experience management.
“I am thrilled to lead this new team that will bring the best of WestJet together to deliver upon a renewed vision for our guest experience,” said Tynan in a statement at the time.
“Whether it is a disruption to a guest’s travel plans, a delayed bag, or how we communicate, we are making investments across our business to better improve on self-serve functionality, guest communication and providing WestJetters across our organization with the tools they need to best assist our guests when they need us most.”
For more on WestJet's growth strategy, click here.