Canadian carrier WestJet Airlines revealed in June this year that it had selected London’s Gatwick Airport for the growth of its long-haul network and the first transatlantic destination for its Boeing 767 fleet from summer 2016. However, the scale of its planned operation to the UK capital is much larger than many predicted as it this week opened reservations for six new routes between Canada and the UK which will be served with a combined 28 weekly flights
As revealed exclusively by our schedules blog, Airline Route, on the morning of September 14, 2015, WestJet plans to introduce flights to London Gatwick from Calgary, Edmonton, St John’s, Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg, the latter’s first regular transatlantic service to the UK since Zoom Airlines served the market in September 2008.
According to its uploaded flight schedules in FLIFO (Flight Information), WestJet will utilise three 767-300ERs and a single 737 on its London schedule, which commences from the start of May. The carrier will use the widebodied jets to offer a daily service from Toronto, six times weekly link from Vancouver, twice weekly offering from Edmonton and a weekly flight from Winnipeg. The 737 will be used on a daily service from St John’s in Newfoundland.
A formal announcement from WestJet on its extensive London schedule was made on September 15, 2015. "Canadians have been paying far too much to fly to Europe for far too long and today, as we have throughout our history, we're going to fix that," said Bob Cummings, executive vice-president, commercial, WestJet Airlines. "We are offering non-stop flights at very low prices and we're proud to once again lower airfares and make travel more affordable."
Earlier this year Cummings noted that the introduction of widebody capability "now allows us to serve London Gatwick from anywhere in Canada" and brings into consideration more international destinations in the future for the carrier.
The airline is in the process of introducing four second-hand 767-300ERWs into its fleet initially on routes within Canada and into the Caribbean from the end of the year. However, over the last 12 months it has been talking to airports, including many in Europe, with view to redeploy these aircraft into new markets from spring 2016, mainly across the Atlantic as the next phase in the international portion of our strategic plan.
"We are at the right scale to make this step in our evolution. Combined with our low-cost approach and renowned people-driven service, we have the network, brand and infrastructure to successfully enter and grow in the widebody market,” said Cummings.
The London market is already linked directly to eight points across Canada with services to Gatwick is currently offered by leisure carrier Air Transat to Calgary, Gander, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, while the Canadian cities of Halifax, Ottawa, St John’s are also served non-stop from London Heathrow.
The London schedule utilises three 767s and suggests that a further announcement could be expected from WestJet on its summer 2016 long-haul schedule plans and the final deployment of the last of the four aircraft. The airline is configuring its 767 fleet in a two-class arrangement, including a 24 seat Plus cabin, offering wider seats with more recline in a 2-2-2 configuration. There will be a further 238 seats in the main cabin, and all seats having access to power sources for personal electronic devices such as tablets or phones.
Our analysis of Sabre Airport Data Intelligence demand statistics shows that an estimated 1.9 million passengers flew between Canada and the UK in 2014, a market WestJet debuted in earlier this year with flights between Halifax and Glasgow. This two-way demand is dominated by flows to/from Toronto (44.4 per cent), but there are notable flows from all the markets that will be linked to London by WestJet.