Category: WestJet Airlines

Canadian airfares rising more than 10 per cent in third quarter: survey

SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 | DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS

An RBC survey says airfares rose by more than 10 per cent in the first two months of the third quarter as Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. passed along higher crude oil prices.

Despite slipping a bit in August, fares rose 12.5 per cent at Air Canada for July and August and were 11.3 per cent higher than a year earlier at WestJet.

The country’s two largest airlines implemented fare increases in July, mostly on domestic routes.

Analyst Walter Spracklin says he expects fares will increase further, with Air Canada likely being more aggressive in passing along oil price increases.

He says Calgary-based WestJet is likely still recovering from weak booking levels resulting from the threat of a pilot strike.

Passenger traffic remains strong with WestJet reporting 8.1-per-cent growth in August, less than the capacity growth of 10 per cent.

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Air Canada, WestJet issue travel advisories as Florence, Isaac & Olivia barrel towards land

Tuesday, September 11, 2018 Posted by Kathryn Folliott travelweek.ca

TORONTO — Hurricane Florence is churning towards the U.S. East Coast as a Category 4 storm as Isaac beelines for the Caribbean and Olivia heads for Hawaii, prompting airlines including Air Canada and WestJet to issue travel advisories and waive change fees for a growing list of destinations.

Florence, currently a Category 4 hurricane and forecast to ramp up to a Category 5, is heading straight for South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia. Landfall is expected in the very early hours of Sept. 14.

Air Canada is waiving change fees for travellers who purchased an Air Canada ticket no later than Sept. 10 for travel Sept. 12 – 16, with an itinerary that includes a flight to or from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia or Georgia.

WestJet’s advisory applies to Myrtle Beach-bound passengers, for travel on Sept. 14.

Meanwhile Isaac, tipping between tropical storm and hurricane status, is heading for the Lesser Antilles islands in the Caribbean, potentially by Sept. 13. WestJet is waiving change fees for Bridgetown flights Sept. 14, while Air Canada’s Bridgetown advisory applies to tickets purchased no later than Sept. 10, for travel Sept. 12 – 14. Carnival is also keeping an eye on the storm, making port adjustments to its Sept. 8 Carnival Vista itinerary.

And in Hawaii, just recently shaking off the wind and rain from Hurricane Lane, Air Canada’s advisory for Tropical Storm Olivia applies to tickets purchased no later than Sept. 10 for travel between now and Sept. 13, for any flight to or from Hawaii. WestJet’s advisory applies to travel to/from Hawaii Sept. 11 – 13.

The biggest storm of the three so far is Florence and in the U.S. mandatory evacuations are in place for parts of North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.

Hurricane Florence’s top winds dipped to 215 kph this morning, but it remains a Category 4 storm and is expected to approach the most-damaging Category 5 status as it slows and strengthens over very warm ocean water off the coast of North and South Carolina.
The centre of the massive storm is then forecast to meander Thursday, Friday and Saturday over a stretch of coastline saturated by rising seas, inundating several states with rainfall and triggering life-threatening floods.

The size of Florence is “staggering,” says National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham.

“We could cover several states easily with the cloud cover alone,” he added. “This is not just a coastal event.”

Rainfall will be extremely heavy, dumping up to 10 to 20 inches over the next seven days over much of North Carolina and Virginia, and up to 30 inches in some places. Combined with high tides, the storm surge could reach 12 feet at the centre of the storm, say forecasters.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said his state is “in the bullseye” and urged people to “get ready now.”

South Carolina’s governor ordered the state’s entire coastline evacuated starting at noon today and predicted that one million people would flee as highways reverse directions. Virginia’s governor ordered a mandatory evacuation for some residents of low-lying coastal areas, while some coastal counties in North Carolina have done the same.

Tuesday’s seven-day rainfall forecast showed 20 inches or more falling there, part of a wide swath of rainfall that could total 10 inches or more over much of Virginia and drench the nation’s capital.

Florence could hit the Carolinas harder than any hurricane since Hazel packed 209 kph winds in 1954. That Category 4 storm destroyed 15,000 buildings and killed 19 people in North Carolina. In the six decades since then, many thousands of people have moved to the coast.

Watches were in effect today for a storm surge that could reach up to 12 feet at high tide on a stretch from Cape Fear to Cape Lookout in North Carolina, forecasters said. A hurricane watch was in effect for Edisto Beach, South Carolina, to Virginia’s southern border, and the first hurricane-force winds arriving late Thursday.

Florence is expected to linger once onshore, downing trees, knocking out electricity and causing widespread flooding.

A warm ocean is the fuel that powers hurricanes, and this area of the ocean is seeing temperatures peak near 85 degrees (30 Celsius), says hurricane specialist Eric Blake. And with little wind shear to pull the storm apart, Florence’s hurricane-strength winds are expanding, reaching 64 kilometres from the eye of the storm.

“Unfortunately, the models were right. Florence has rapidly intensified into an extremely dangerous hurricane,” said Blake, predicting that the hurricane’s top sustained winds would approach the 253 kph threshold for a wost-case Category 5 scenario.

By 8 a.m. this morning Florence was centred about 1,530 kilometres east-southeast of Cape Fear, North Carolina, and moving west-northwest at 24 kph. Its centre will move between Bermuda and the Bahamas on Tuesday and Wednesday and approach the coast of South Carolina or North Carolina on Thursday.

WestJet reports August load factor of 89.0 per cent

WestJet_logo_rgbCALGARY, Sept. 10, 2018 /CNW/ – Today WestJet announced August 2018 traffic results with a load factor of 89.0 per cent, a decrease of 1.6 percentage points year over year. Revenue passenger miles (RPMs), or traffic, increased 8.1 per cent year over year, while capacity, measured in available seat miles (ASMs), grew 10.0 per cent over the same period. WestJet welcomed an additional 128,000 guests in August, a year-over-year increase of 5.4 per cent. Year-to-date we continue to see traffic growth outpace capacity additions.

“In August, we flew two of our busiest-ever traffic days with more than 80,000 guests choosing one of our four airline brands. In only its second full month of operation, Canadians continue to embrace Swoop with load factors consistently above ninety-five per cent,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “I want to thank every individual WestJetter for continuing to provide our guests with an award-winning service experience.”

August 2018 traffic results

August 2018 August 2017 Change
Load factor 89.0% 90.6% -1.6 pts.
ASMs (billions) 3.074 2.794 10.0%
RPMs (billions) 2.736 2.531 8.1%
Year-to-Date 2018 Year-to-Date 2017 Change
Load factor 85.1% 84.3% 0.8 pts.
ASMs (billions) 22.062 20.851 5.8%
RPMs (billions) 18.780 17.575 6.9%

In August, WestJet became the first Canadian airline to launch an artificial intelligence chatbot. Named Juliet, the chatbot offers WestJet’s guests more convenience, and enables travellers to easily manage many aspects of their trip including destination inspiration and discovery, flight booking and day-of travel information. Juliet is available in English and French through Facebook Messenger. To chat with Juliet, please visit: http://m.me/westjet.

WestJet is also giving Canadians more sun and fun this winter. As part of the winter schedule, WestJet announced more flights from WestJet hubs to domestic, transborder, international and sun destinations including Maui, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Orlando, Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta and Belize. The airline also announced new twice-weekly, non-stop service between Calgary International Airport (YYC) and Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay, Jamaica (MBJ) and new weekly, non-stop service between Skyxe Saskatoon Airport (YXE) and Orlando International Airport (MCO). The services start November 3, 2018 and December 7, 2018, respectively.

WestJet outlines path to axing C$200 million in costs

06 SEPTEMBER, 2018 SOURCE: FLIGHT DASHBOARD BY: JON HEMMERDINGER BOSTON

WestJet_logo_rgbExtended maintenance intervals, network changes and customer service tweaks are among factors that will help WestJet achieve its goal to save C$200 million ($152 million) in the next two years, WestJet chief financial officer Harry Taylor tells FlightGlobal.

The changes will help right a ship that Taylor admits has been burdened by ballooning costs amid a major organisation-wide transformation.

“Over the last couple of years our aggregate costs have grown faster than aggregate revenues. That’s never a recipe for financial success,” says Taylor.

WestJet posted a C$28 million operating loss in the second quarter as operating expenses surged nearly 14%. The Calgary- based company, which once operated a traditional point-to-point low-cost model, is moving upscale, acquiring Boeing 787s and adding premium seating in a bid to lure more business travellers.

To address rising costs, WestJet announced in May it had moved forward by two years, to 2020, a goal to eliminate C$200 million ($152 million) from its operation.

WestJet aims to cut C$60 million this year (of which it has already identified savings worth C$40 million), another C$60 million in 2019 and the final C$80 million in 2020, Taylor says.

A number of changes will generate savings, including a plan to extend by several months the intervals between aircraft maintenance checks – particularly B and C checks, he says.

Such changes require Transport Canada approval and, Taylor stresses, will not compromise safety.

WestJet is developing the new intervals in partnership with Boeing.

The airline is also renegotiating new sales and distribution contracts, such as those with global distribution systems, and is eliminating some unprofitable flying, says Taylor.

He notes the company will end service to Mexico City this fall and has cut flight frequencies on many routes, including those to places like Denver and Quebec City.

More broadly, WestJet has slashed by six percentage points its originally-planned fourth quarter capacity growth to help boost fares and yields.

“We need to get yields growing. We need to get margins expanding… We need to lead the market by reducing capacity,” Taylor says.

Then there is what Taylor calls “guest atonement” – in other words, how WestJet handles customers inconvenienced by operational disruptions.

“We were exceedingly generous in trying to atone for the inconvenience we caused our guests,” Taylor says, noting that WestJet generously provided meal vouchers, hotel rooms, dollar-based credits and flight rebooking.

“We have dialed it back to industry standard, or maybe a little bit more,” says Taylor.

WestJet latest airline to retreat from Mexico City

05 SEPTEMBER, 2018 SOURCE: FLIGHT DASHBOARD BY: JON HEMMERDINGER BOSTON

WestJet-MaxCalgary-based WestJet will exit Mexico City in October, becoming the latest among several North American airlines to retrench from Mexico’s capital city.

The move comes just seven month after WestJet entered the Mexico City market with routes from Calgary and Vancouver.

“It’s just not performing up to the standards that we would like to see,” WestJet chief financial officer Harry Taylor says of Mexico City. “We don’t want to be cost-subsidising at this point.”

Taylor adds that despite retrenching, WestJet still sees long-term opportunity to serve Mexico City and could return.

“Long term – there’s something there,” he tells FlightGlobal.

WestJet will operate its last Vancouver-Mexico City flight on 3 October, followed by its final Calgary-Mexico City flight on 27 October, FlightGlobal schedules data shows.

The carrier launched both routes in March and does not serve Mexico City from any other destination, data shows.

WestJet’s move mirrors cuts by other airlines. Seattle-based Alaska Airlines will stop serving Mexico City on 7 November when it operates it last flight from Los Angeles.

Alaska called that route “underperforming” and said that the change frees aircraft to launch new routes, such as Seattle to Columbus, Ohio, which the airline plans to start in March 2019.

Alaska also had served Mexico City from San Francisco, but ended that route in May.

Likewise, United Airlines will also cut its Los Angeles-Mexico City flight in October, schedules data shows.

Capacity in available seats from North America to Mexico City jumped 9% year-over-year in the third quarter of 2018, primarily reflecting expansion by low-cost carriers Aeromar, JetBlue Airways, Southwest Airlines, VivaAerobus and Volaris, schedules data shows.

WestJet’s move comes as the airline seeks to tighten its operation and bolster its finances. The carrier has seen costs balloon in recent quarters, and posted a second quarter operating loss.

The financial challenges hit amid a broad, companywide transformation under which WestJet is moving upscale, acquiring Boeing 787s, installing business class seats on 737s and adding flights at its hubs.

As Air Canada soars, WestJet takes a predictable nosedive

The Toronto Star – By DAVID OLIVE, Business Columnist

One of today’s most compelling business sagas is the reversal of fortunes at WestJet Airlines Ltd.

For most of its 22-year existence, the Calgary-based company has been one of the world’s few consistently successful major airlines.

But today’s WestJet appears to be on a flight path to mediocrity, or worse. In its most recent quarter, WestJet reported its first loss in 13 years.

Should WestJet investors, employees and customers be worried?

In a word, yes.

WestJet described its abysmal second-quarter performance as the result of a perfect storm of higher fuel costs, cancelled bookings due to a threatened pilots’ strike and weather disturbances.

But WestJet’s worsening financial performance pre-dates those conditions.

WestJet’s profits have dropped 22.8 per cent over the past three years. In its zeal for growth, the airline has committed the basic business failing of allowing growth in costs during that time (up 17.1 per cent) to outpace growth in revenues (12.5 per cent).

And about that perfect storm: WestJet would not have suffered the loss of tens of millions of dollars’ worth of bookings this year due to a threatened pilots’ strike if its labour relations, once a model of harmony for the industry, were not so fractious.

And the fuel bill has been more punishing than need be due to WestJet’s rapid expansion of its aircraft fleet without sufficient additional revenues to offset a coincident recovery in the world oil price.

Working with the same industry conditions, WestJet’s archrival, Air Canada, is in the midst of a turnaround for the ages.

Air Canada now outperforms all of its North American major-airline peers on the key metric of revenue per employee, at $688,000 to WestJet’s $392,000.

AC has gone from barely breaking even three years ago to posting a robust $2-billion profit in 2017. Over the past five years, shares in Air Canada have soared in value by about 800 per cent.

WestJet stock has gone in the other direction. The stock-market value of WestJet has plunged by about 45 per cent since its 2014 peak.

WestJet has strayed from an original business model that made it both financially successful and Canada’s favourite, most passenger-friendly major airline.

Recall that the old WestJet, like the Texas-based Southwest Airlines Co. it was modelled on, was a non-union carrier whose employee profit-sharing and folksy management kept unions at bay.

The old WestJet flew just one aircraft type, the industry workhorse Boeing 737. That saved enormous sums of money on training, maintenance and aircraft downtime.

The old WestJet was a strictly domestic carrier, save for a few vacation-package flights to relatively nearby sunspots in North America and the Caribbean. It offered just one product: Discount-fare, medium-haul flights on routes carefully selected for their profitability.

And the old WestJet was distinctive. Proudly Western Canadian, it was determined to match its nationally beloved Alberta peer, Wardair, in exemplary treatment of employees and passengers, an airline where senior management helped clean the aircraft cabins.

In recent years, however, WestJet has been made over into an impersonal, multi-functional airline like Air Canada, but without AC’s immense financial resources and entrenched market position.

At today’s WestJet, many pilots are unionized. And union drives are underway with unhappy flight attendants and ground crews. During the eight-year tenure of CEO Gregg Saretsky, a period marked by rapid growth and diversification at WestJet, the airline lost touch with its employees.

Saretsky abruptly departed in March. But in May, WestJet was revealed to have asked selected passengers to spy not only on WestJet’s in-flight employees, but those of competing airlines. WestJet apologized “unreservedly” for the unseemly incident.

Today, industry experts say, what keeps flyers loyal to both AC and WestJet is their loyalty rewards programs, not their customer satisfaction levels. The latter are now indistinguishable. And the two airlines’ pricing regimes are effectively identical. WestJet, no longer a committed discounter, has raised its fares five times this year.

If passenger TLC is no longer a WestJet hallmark, discontented employees help explain why. Both WestJet and Air Canada face formal allegations of maltreatment of flight attendants — yet another indication the two carriers have become same-as airlines.

The new WestJet flies several aircraft types, including the Boeing 767, the Q400 turboprop and the Saab 340B. And WestJet will soon take delivery of the first of 20 Boeing 787-9 “Dreamliners” it has ordered.

Operating a Dreamliner, one of today’s most expensive commercial aircraft, is a statement that an airline has “arrived.” WestJet now wishes to be known as “a global airline.”

Few global airlines have avoided a spell in bankruptcy protection, including Air Canada. Other troubled carriers have been merged out of existence. They include a Wardair that was a victim of the same over-expansion with which WestJet is now flirting.

Finally, the WestJet brand has been diluted by the company’s confusing new variety of products.

The new WestJet operates short-haul, medium-haul, vacation-package, trans-ocean, premium-priced and deep-discount flights (its new Swoop airline). A WestJet that once vowed not to fly east of Manitoba now flies to Europe. With its Dreamliners, WestJet hopes to serve Pacific and South American destinations, as well.

WestJet has not gained mastery of its new size and complexity. Last year, the company’s total operating costs surged past the $4-billion threshold, on a revenue base of just $3.9 billion.

WestJet began life as a repudiation of the hulking, passenger-insensitive Air Canada. WestJet is now set on matching its archrival in revenues and product diversity.

But Air Canada, one of the world’s dozen biggest airlines, with 2017 revenues of $13.3 billion, has the resources to defend its markets and finance expansion. WestJet’s profits of $284 million last year were just 14.2 per cent of Air Canada’s. And in revenue terms, a comparatively diminutive WestJet is essentially an overgrown regional carrier whose reach appears to exceed its grasp.

WestJet now operates about 170 aircraft, more than half the size of AC’s fleet of 300. But WestJet generates only 29 per cent of AC’s revenues – a warning signal Bay Street has so far ignored.

WestJet finally acknowledged last month that it is over-stretched, announcing a campaign to cut an annual $200 million from the firm’s costs.

Distracted by its pell-mell growth ambitions, WestJet lost focus on its existing business — on controlling costs, on cosseting its passengers, on respecting its employees and offering a product that was something special in the skies.

In a nutshell, today’s WestJet appears to be running on hubris, not wise management.

The shame of it is that, while Canadian travellers still mourn the demise of Wardair, they would not miss the new WestJet. It has, after all, become an airline like the others.

David Olive is a business columnist based in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter: @TheGrtRecession

WestJet welcomes former JetBlue executive, Captain Jeffrey Martin as Chief Operating Officer

CALGARY, Aug. 31, 2018 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced the appointment of Captain Jeffrey (Jeff) Martin to the position of Chief Operating Officer. Jeff will join WestJet on September 24, 2018, subject to Canadian immigration approval.

WestJet welcomes former JetBlue executive, Captain Jeffrey Martin as Chief Operating Officer (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)

“Jeff is a highly accomplished aviation executive and an outstanding addition to our team,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “As WestJet continues to transform into a global airline, Jeff’s extensive international experience will help ensure our continued success.”

Reporting to Ed Sims, Jeff will oversee more than 11,000 WestJetters in WestJet’s Flight Operations (including the Operational Control Centre), Guest Experience (Contact Centre and Inflight), Airports, Technical (Maintenance) Operations, Continuous Improvement, and the business strategy and execution of WestJet Encore.

“For years I have admired the WestJet culture and I am thrilled to become part of it,” said Jeff Martin. “Joining WestJet at this pivotal point in its transformation to a global network airline is such an exciting opportunity. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a real game changer to WestJet’s growth as it makes its mark on the world stage.”

Jeff brings more than 28 years of commercial aviation and operational experience to WestJet. He comes from JetBlue, where he most recently served as Executive Vice-President of Operations, responsible for Technical Operations, System Operations, Safety, Security, Flight Operations, Training and Regulatory Compliance for the sixth largest airline in the U.S. Prior to that he spent 22 years at Southwest Airlines, where he began his commercial career as a pilot, and took on various leadership roles, eventually serving as Vice President of the Operations Coordination Centre.

Throughout his career, Jeff has maintained his currency as a pilot and civilian flight instructor and continued to fly. He maintains an Airline Transport Pilot Licence and is captain qualified on the DC-10, Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircraft. He also served in the United States Air Force flying KC-10s prior to beginning his commercial aviation career.

In addition to his work in the aviation industry, Jeff has been a board member at LaSalle Hotel Properties since October 17, 2016.

Air Canada, WestJet raising checked baggage fees for lowest-fare passengers

MONTREAL – THE CANADIAN PRESS – 28 August 2018

Many Canadians will be forced to spend a little more to travel after Air Canada and WestJet Airlines Ltd. said they are increasing fees for passengers to check their bags.

The country’s two largest airlines are raising the fee for the first checked bag to $30 from $25, and for the second bag to $50 from $30.

The moves were made swiftly after major U.S. airline JetBlue Airways Corp. hiked its fees for checked bags and to change a ticket.

“This is the first change since 2014 and will help offset overall increasing costs and keep overall ticket prices competitive,” Air Canada spokeswoman Isabelle Arthur wrote in an email.

The new baggage fees apply on flights across Canada, to and from the United States, the Caribbean and Mexico, departing on or after Oct. 5.

WestJet’s changes apply on flights starting Oct. 1 for domestic bookings made as of last Friday, and as of Tuesday on flights to the U.S. and international destinations.

“By raising fees for optional services, such as checked bags, we can continue to maintain the lower fares our guests expect,” added WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart.

She said its fares and fees allow passengers to pay for services that matter most to them.

The fees apply to the lowest fare classes at both airlines.

Air Canada economy flex and economy comfort fares will continue to receive a first checked bag free of charge as will elite members and those who booked Air Canada Vacations packages. Military personnel with identification have up to three free checked bags, regardless of destination.

Fees are waived for WestJet Plus passengers, gold and silver rewards members or those booking with RBC World Elite Mastercards.

Porter Airlines says its fees aren’t changing.  Air Transat and Sunwing couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Airlines have been adding fees for a decade and now charge for seats with more legroom, early boarding, upgrades, food and beverages, entertainment and wireless access. Air Canada earned more than $1 billion from these payments last year while WestJet collected about $440 million.

The world’s top 10 airlines collected US$29.7 billion in revenues from ancillary fees last year, up from US$2.1 billion a decade ago, according to IdeaWorksCompany, a U.S. research company that tracks airline revenue.

WestJet becomes first Canadian airline to launch an AI Chatbot

“Juliet” on Facebook Messenger enables guests to discover destinations, book trips and receive instant support

CALGARY, Aug. 27, 2018 /CNW/ – WestJet today is offering its guests more convenience with the launch of the first ever artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbot from a Canadian airline.

The chatbot, named Juliet, is available in English and French through Facebook Messenger, and enables travellers to easily manage many aspects of their trip including destination inspiration and discovery, flight booking and day-of travel information. To chat with Juliet, please visit: http://m.me/westjet

“Juliet is the first of many ways WestJet will be raising the bar using digital to improve the guest experience, and make the travel journey easier and more enjoyable,” said Alfredo C. Tan, WestJet Chief Digital and Innovation Officer. “A majority of internet users are already using a messenger platform, including Facebook Messenger. Launching Juliet gives even more access to quick, simple support on a platform that a majority of our guests already have at hand.”

Juliet, named after one of WestJet’s original aircraft, uses reinforcement learning allowing the chatbot to learn the way humans do, with a combination of instruction, examples, and experience, leading to better responses over time. WestJet will continue to add more functionality, features and capabilities to Juliet including availability on different platforms and voice interaction.

Flights from YVR to Hawaii cancelled, as Hurricane Lane approaches

News1130.com by DENISE WONG

WestJet-MaxVANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – At least four flights from Vancouver to the Hawaiian Islands have been cancelled, as torrential downpours soak the Big Island.

Hurricane Lane is approaching the island, with about 30 centimetres of rain falling in about 12 hours in some parts. It is a Category 4 storm.

WestJet has cancelled flights from YVR to Honolulu and Kahului for Thursday and Friday.

However, two recovery flights are taking passengers out of Honolulu and Maui.

From News660.com…