Canadian low-cost carrier, WestJet Airlines continues to study the introduction of widebody aircraft into its fleet, but an executive of the carrier revealed in this year’s Routes Europe Strategy Summit in Marseille, France that the carrier has never been closer to formalising a deal.
“We have looked at introducing widebody aircraft into the fleet many times over the years,” said John Weatherill, Network & Schedule Planning, WestJet Airlines, during the ‘Low-Cost Carriers – The next frontier for innovation’ panel discussion at Routes Europe, “but we are probably the closest we have ever been to making a decision.”
The airline, like many other low-cost carries, has been actively studying the launch of long-haul services and will actually be launching a first route this summer when it inaugurates flights between St John’s in Newfoundland and the Irish capital, Dublin. This will be flown using a Boeing 737, the aircraft it currently uses on its existing network across Canada and the Americas. It will also add to this initial route. "That is why I am here at Routes Europe," added Weatherill.
Although there are various growth opportunities in the short-haul market, as highlighted by the launch of WestJet’s regional Encore division served by a fleet of Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprops, Weatherill said that a medium- or long-haul operation would help develop the product offering in a sensible manner. "We feel the combination of low-cost, long-haul, with the strength of our own network behind it presents an opportunity," he said.
WestJet surprised many people when it revealed plans to introduce the St John’s – Dublin transatlantic link. The carrier will introduce a daily service between June 15 and October 5, with connecting service from several other Canadian destinations, including a same aircraft link from Toronto.