Category: WestJet Airlines

WESTJET Wins Best Low Cost Carrier Americas

News provided by

by Christine Forbes Smith November 13, 2018

WestJet cabin crew bring the magic back into flying

Westjet now in its 22nd year has emerged as a significant force in Canadian aviation and has again won the AirlineRatings Low-Cost Carrier Award for the Americas, although its radar is now focused on premium travelers as well.

The Calgary-based carrier commenced operations in February 1996 and has grown to become Canada’s second-biggest airline.

Today, it boasts a fleet of 122 aircraft and a network that serves, along with regional offshoot WestJet Encore, more than 109 destinations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Europe.

However, while it is voted as Best Low-Cost Airline for the Americas, it is also an airline in transition to a full-service, global carrier a project that started in 2016.

The airline has invested more than $4 billion in Boeing 737 MAX and 787 Dreamliners.

Westjet Boeing 787

Its first of 10 787-9s arrives in January, and WestJet introduced its flight schedule for the 787 on October 10 with the first three 787 Dreamliners to serve London, Paris, and Dublin non-stop from Calgary. Westjet has also taken delivery of the nine of the 50 737MAXs it has on order.

Lounges are also coming in for a makeover with upgrades in each of its Canadian hubs; Calgary, Vancouver, and Toronto to meet the needs of the premium traveler.

At the same time, it has upgraded its loyalty program, WestJet Rewards, adding a new upper tier called Platinum that will also cater to the premium traveler.

In May WestJet announced new Premium Economy seats to replace the Plus seats and the new seats would feature a more extensive 2-2 configuration on 737s.

And in October, it introduced an entirely new brand campaign called “Love Where You’re Going.” The brand campaign is intended to be multi-faceted, targeted to employees as we want them to love where they are going career-wise and also targeted to the business traveler – we want them to enjoy where they are going in life, and their career and WestJet wants to help fulfill that.

Westjet 767 cabin
Westjet Economy Plus on the 767, which will be replaced by the 787s.

“WestJet is a carrier that has established a reputation for flair, humor and community engagement,” Editor-in-Chief Geoffrey Thomas said.

“There is no question WestJet is an airline that is going places – particularly into the premium end of the market.’’

And low fares haven’t stopped it giving passengers room to breathe with a seat pitch in the main cabin of 31-33 inches and 36-38 inches in its WestJet Plus section.  Its WestJet Connect app offers free TV shows and movies as well as the ability to buy in-flight Internet packages.

WestJet Wins Low Cost Carrier Americas Award
WestJet’s DisneyWorld livery on the Boeing 737

Famous for its humorous April Fool’s day videos, WestJet earned community respect with events such as 2016’s  “Snowflake Soiree” benefiting the residents of a Canadian town ravaged by wildfires.


WestJetters build five new homes for families in Dominican Republic through WestJet Live Different Builds

Annual humanitarian trip brings 50 WestJetters to Puerto Plata community

CALGARYNov. 6, 2018 /CNW/ – For nine days, 50 WestJetters immersed themselves within the local community of La Union in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic to take part in the eighth WestJet Live Different Builds. On this annual humanitarian trip, WestJetters were able to build new homes for five families living in extreme poverty.

Photos of this year’s build from Oct. 26 to Nov. 3 are available for download by clicking here.

Since WestJet’s first humanitarian trip in April 2012, more than 400 WestJetters have volunteered their time to build 38 new homes for deserving families. WestJetters’ extra fundraising efforts have also contributed to many significant community enhancement projects. This year, WestJetter participants raised over $17,000 of extra funds that, when topped up to $22,000 by WestJet, were used to create engineer-designed paved pathways throughout La Union, improving walkability, water dispersion and the overall health and safety of the community.

“WestJet’s caring culture has always extended beyond our aircraft and we’re incredibly proud of the WestJetters who volunteer their time and talents to make this important annual trip possible,” said Richard Bartrem, WestJet Vice-President Marketing Communications. “By working together with Live Different and the La Union community, we are able to enrich the lives of deserving families in the WestJet world.”

In 2012 WestJet partnered with Canadian-based charity Live Different to make international community investment possible in one of its most popular Caribbean destinations. Through all eight Live Different Builds, WestJet has been able to bring its caring culture to some of the most impoverished communities in the Dominican Republic.

“Live Different is consistently overwhelmed by the generosity of WestJet employees and it was our pleasure, once again, to work alongside them on the eight annual WestJet Live Different Builds in the Dominican Republic,” said Alison Willis, Senior Director of International Programs, Live Different. “Together with local contractors and community members, 50 WestJetters gave it their all over the past 10 days and now five beautiful families are living in safer, dryer homes. Each time we partner up, we are amazed by WestJet’s commitment to going above and beyond, not just participating on the build itself, but exceeding their fundraising goals to support other projects in the community and contribute to Live Different’s Community Development Fund. Together, we truly are having a positive impact in the lives of many.”

The Live Different Builds team is WestJet’s on-the-ground charitable partner in the Puerto Plata area. They liaise with the local community to ensure the work addresses their needs and is done in healthy and sustainable manner; to oversee project management; to hire local contractors and translators to work alongside the WestJet volunteers; as well as to provide on-site instruction and support. WestJet Live Different Builds would not exist without Live Different’s careful guidance and years of experience doing this type of work.

WestJet signs strategic partnership agreement with ATCO

WestJet to become primary flight provider for ATCO; ATCOenergy named official energy provider for WestJet’s Calgary Campus

CALGARY, Nov. 5, 2018 /CNW/ – WestJet announced today it has reached a multi-year agreement as the primary flight provider for ATCO and its employees beginning in early November.

As part of the partnership agreement, ATCOenergy will also become the official energy provider for WestJet’s Calgary Campus and will power WestJet’s new 787 Hangar scheduled to open in 2019.

“We’re delighted to see this strategic partnership come to life between two Calgary companies,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “It’s important for us to work together and we’re grateful to have the support of a strong Alberta-based company like ATCOenergy to power our new hangar. We’re looking forward to servicing ATCO’s business and leisure needs across our global network that now includes direct access to Europe from Calgary on our 787-9 Dreamliners.”

“ATCO is extremely pleased to announce our strategic partnership with WestJet,” said Nancy Southern, ATCO Chair & CEO. “We are both strong Alberta-based companies expanding our global footprints. This partnership will enable greater access and ease of travel for the people of ATCO meeting with our customers and partners across Canada, the United States, Mexico and abroad.”

Canada’s WestJet to defer four 737 MAX 8 deliveries on domestic overcapacity

31 October 2018 – Air Transport World
Sean Broderick

Overcapacity in the increasingly competitive Canadian domestic market has led WestJet to defer four Boeing 737 MAX 8s scheduled for delivery next year. However, the Calgary-based carrier continues to see opportunities internationally and announced it would redeploy one of its Boeing 767s on a new transatlantic route after taking its first 787s.

“It is clear, we were long on domestic capacity,” WestJet president Ed Sims said. “I think the industry is long on domestic capacity across the length and breadth of Canada. We’ve looked at our domestic footprint; we’ve taken that opportunity to really concentrate our capacity into our hubs and our most profitable feeders and spokes of that hub.”

The 737-8 deliveries will now be split between 2020 and 2021, WestJet revealed Oct. 30. The carrier also extended leases on two 737-700s and two 737-800s set to expire next year and agreed to lease two 737-8s that will arrive next year.

“The [deferral] decision was based on our assessment of both the economic and competitive environment for next year,” CFO Harry Taylor said. “Obviously, this year has not turned out the way we expected or wanted it to, and we wanted to be proactive to support unit revenues and margin expansion and reduce our capacity growth to much lower levels in order to improve unit revenues and margin.”

WestJet is aggressive about mixing leased and owned aircraft to maintain capacity flexibility. The airline ended the third quarter with 174 aircraft, and is set up to have between 193 and 223 at the end of 2027, depending on what it does with expiring leases.

WestJet, which saw earnings from operations fall 70% year-over-year through the first three quarters, is slowing growth and aggressively cutting costs. The carrier pulled about 6% out of its planned fourth-quarter growth and will end the year with a 5.5%-6.5% increase in available seat miles, including 4%-5% domestically.

Next year’s growth will be 6.5%-8.5%, but almost all of this is its new international flying on three new 787-9s and the ramp-up of ULCC subsidiary Swoop. WestJet will launch international 787 services on April 28 with a fleet of three aircraft. ULCC Swoop, which operates six aircraft, will be up to 10 by year-end. Domestic capacity is projected to be up only 1%-3% next year.

Canada’s domestic market has benefited from the ramp-up of several carriers. Swoop, fast-growing ULCC Flair Airlines, and to a lesser extent, Air Canada’s leisure-market-focused rouge subsidiary have all added domestic routes.

While the domestic market is getting crowded, the carriers still see opportunities abroad. WestJet will launch service between Toronto and Barcelona on May 24 using one of the 767s that the new 787s—which will fly a mix of both new routes and existing 767 routes—will free up. The route is flown by rouge, which also uses 767s.

“We’ve been regularly reminded that we have not had the benefit of international revenue streams, which our competition has taken advantage [of],” Sims said. “If I look at a multi-layered strategy of a full-network carrier underpinned by a carrier like rouge, I think it is fair to say that the 767 is a very effective competitive weapon against that rouge product.”

WestJet said use of the 767s beyond the summer schedule remains up in the air. It will likely use some as long-haul spares, but may deploy others on winter routes. At the moment, there are no plans to retire them, Sims said.

Sean Broderick,

WestJet says ‘Yes’ to Calgary’s 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Bid

Airline announces support for 2026 Games to be hosted in Calgary

WestJet-MaxCALGARYNov. 2, 2018 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced its support for Calgary’s 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid.

“Since 1996, WestJet has been proud to call Calgary home and we’re thrilled to announce our support for Calgary’s bid to host the 2026 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “The opportunity hosting the Games would provide in terms of economic growth and tourism is substantial for Calgary, Alberta and our country. We’re looking forward to showcasing our city and connecting the world to Calgary through our expanding global network in 2026.”

WestJet is Calgary’s largest airline, and by June 2019, will offer flights to 65 non-stop destinations with an average of 1,100 flights per week from YYC. Last month, WestJet announced its launching its first three Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner international destinations from Calgary in 2019 including; London (Gatwick), Paris and Dublin.

WestJet’s Dreamliners will carry 320 guests in a three-class cabin configuration including the airline’s newly revealed Business cabin featuring 16 private pods with lie-flat seats, an upscale Premium cabin and an updated Economy cabin.

WestJet to offer non-stop Atlanta service from Calgary

Only airline flying non-stop from YYC to ATL

CALGARYOct. 30, 2018 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced it is expanding choice and connectivity for Calgarians when the airline begins operations between Calgary International Airport (YYC) and Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) next spring.

“WestJet is proud to expand on vital trade and tourism linkages between Western Canada and the southeastern United States,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “Non-stop, year-round flights from Calgary to Atlanta connect two major markets in North America and grow opportunities for trade and tourism.”

“Being able to access the world’s busiest airport direct from Calgary is a strategic advantage that will allow our guests more access to the U.S. and connect to more places in the world,” said Bob Sartor, Calgary Airport Authority’s President and CEO. “We thank WestJet for this further investment and for providing another way to travel to and from Canada.”

WestJet is the only airline flying non-stop from Calgary to ATL, the world’s largest airline hub – home of Delta Airlines, a WestJet codeshare partner since 2011. Together with Delta, via HartsfieldJackson airport WestJet will offer codeshare access to an extensive list of U.S. destinations including the southeastern United States and Gulf Coast and cities such as Memphis, Tenn.Charleston, S.C.New Orleans, La.Savannah, Ga.Pensacola and Panama City, Fla.

Starting March 3, 2019, WestJet will fly six times weekly between Calgaryand Atlanta, moving to daily on April 7, 2019. WestJet serves more destinations from Calgary with more flights than any other airline. This this new route is another investment in the airport, city, and region.






Calgary –  Atlanta

Six times


9:55 a.m.

4:08 p.m.

March 3, 2019

Atlanta – Calgary

Six times


5:00 p.m.

7:39 p.m.

March 3, 2019

*Daily starting April 7, 2019

For more information, please visit

WestJet to launch seasonal, non-stop service from Toronto

WestJet to launch seasonal, non-stop service from Toronto

CALGARYOct. 30, 2018 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced it will be adding Barcelona to its growing presence in Europe with three-times weekly, non-stop service between Toronto and Barcelona starting May 24, 2019 through October 21, 2019.

“In summer 2019 WestJet will provide even more access between Canadaand Europe as we continue to expand our international network,” said Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “The addition of flights to Barcelona, an important European cruise hub, offers our business and leisure guests convenient flight times and one-stop flight connections from Canada via our Toronto hub.”

“Next spring, Toronto Pearson passengers will have another option for non-stop travel to Europe with WestJet’s upcoming service to Barcelona,” said Kim Stangeby, Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, Greater Toronto Airports Authority. “International destinations continue to be in high demand for travellers in the region and we’re excited to be able to provide additional connectivity to this vibrant city.”

“For Aena and for Barcelona-El Prat Airport it is a pleasure to welcome WestJet to our facilities,” said Sonia Corrochano, Barcelona-El Prat Airport Director. “I am sure that this new service WestJet offers from Toronto to Barcelona will further increase the links between Spain and Canada, and will place Catalonia among the favourite destinations for Canadians, and as their gateway to the Mediterranean.”

“The Spanish Tourism Office is very happy about the new flight,” said Laura Pena Alberdi, Spanish Tourism Office Director. “This new destination non-stop from Toronto will give WestJet’s clients the possibility of visiting this beautiful Mediterranean and cosmopolitan city, with its rich history and art marvels. We are certain Canadians will also enjoy Barcelona as a gateway to other incredible sites and cities in Spain.”

WestJet’s TorontoBarcelona service will be operated on its Boeing 767-300 ER aircraft, seating 262 guests and featuring the airline’s Premium and Economy cabins. Flights are timed to optimize connectivity to and from flights within Ontario and Eastern Canada at WestJet’s Toronto hub. All flights provide for WestJet Rewards accumulation and redemption along with additional benefits for WestJet Rewards top tier members.

For summer 2019, WestJet will operate the following European service: London (Gatwick) service from VancouverEdmontonWinnipeg and Toronto, service from Halifax to GlasgowLondon and Paris and service between St. John’s and Dublin.

The announcement of Barcelona service comes on the heels of WestJet’s recent announcement of its first Dreamliner routes to ParisLondon(Gatwick) and Dublin from Calgary.

Details of WestJet’s service between Toronto and Barcelona:






Toronto –  Barcelona*

Three times

9:00 p.m

10:42 a.m. +1

May 24, 2019

Barcelona – Toronto*

Three times

12:30 p.m

3:25 p.m

May 25, 2019

*Subject to government approval

WestJet warms up winter for St. John’s

Airline providing limited-addition, non-stop service to Fort Lauderdale

WestJet-MaxCALGARYOct. 30, 2018 /CNW/ – WestJet today announced the addition of non-stop service from St. John’s to Fort Lauderdale this winter. Service is available on a limited basis and starts March 11, 2019 through May 13, 2019.

“WestJet knows that the community of St. John’s embraces Florida in the winter,” said Brian Znotins, WestJet Vice-President Network Planning, Alliances and Corporate Development. “Along with our seasonal service to Tampa and Orlando, we are pleased to provide convenient, non-stop service to sunny Fort Lauderdale for those looking to jet south for warm air, beaches or cruising this winter.”

“We’re delighted that WestJet is expanding its service to the sunny south with a direct seasonal service to Fort Lauderdale,” said Keith Collins, President and CEO, St. John’s International Airport Authority. “Florida is one of our top sun destinations and having a greater capacity for our travellers, in addition to Tampa and Orlando, will be well-received.”

This winter, along with Fort Lauderdale, WestJet will operate 29 weekly departures from St. John’s including non-stop to OrlandoToronto and Halifax.

Details on WestJet’s service between St. John’s and Fort Lauderdale:






St. John’s –  Fort


2:30 p.m

6:44 p.m

March 11,

Fort Lauderdale – St.


7:30 a.m

1:38 p.m

March 11,

For more information, please visit

WestJet reports third quarter net earnings of $45.9 million

WESTJET- an Alberta Partnership-WestJet unveils global future- nCALGARYOct. 30, 2018 /CNW/ – WestJet (TSX: WJA) today announced its third quarter results for 2018, with net earnings of $45.9 million, or $0.40per fully diluted share. This result compares with net earnings of $135.9 million, or $1.15 per fully diluted share reported in the third quarter of 2017. Year-to-date, WestJet recorded net earnings of $62.3 million, or $0.54 per fully diluted share.

“We are pleased to return to profitability in the third quarter,” Ed Sims, WestJet President and CEO. “We have achieved this result despite continued downward pressure from the dramatic increases in fuel price and competitive capacity, along with the lingering impact of the threat of industrial action. We now look forward to the delivery of our first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner in late January, and starting direct services in Spring 2019 from Calgary to London (Gatwick), Paris, and Dublin. I would like to thank every WestJetter for their focus on delivering award-winning service to our guests.”

Operating highlights (stated in Canadian dollars)

Q3 2018

Q3 2017


Net earnings (millions)




Diluted earnings per share




Total revenue (millions)




Operating margin



(10.1 pts)

ASMs (available seat miles) (billions)




RPMs (revenue passenger miles) (billions)




Load factor



(1.1 pts)

Segment guests




Yield (revenue per revenue passenger mile) (cents)




RASM (revenue per available seat mile) (cents)




CASM (cost per available seat mile) (cents)




Fuel costs per litre (cents)




CASM, excluding fuel and employee profit share (cents)*




 *Refer to reconciliations in the accompanying tables for further information regarding calculations.

Dividend declaration
On October 29, 2018, WestJet’s Board of Directors declared a cash dividend of $0.14 per common voting share and variable voting share for the fourth quarter of 2018, to be paid on December 28, 2018, to shareholders of record on December 12, 2018. All dividends paid by WestJet are, pursuant to subsection 89(14) of the Income Tax Act, designated as eligible dividends, unless indicated otherwise. An eligible dividend paid to a Canadian resident is entitled to the enhanced dividend tax credit.

Caution regarding forward-looking information
Certain information set forth in this news release is forward-looking information within the meaning of applicable securities laws. By its nature, forward-looking information is subject to numerous risks and uncertainties, some of which are beyond WestJet’s control. The forward-looking information contained in this news release is based on WestJet’s current forecasts and strategy, the expected demand environment, the utilization of our fleet, the forward-curve for jet fuel price, the expected exchange rate of the Canadian dollar to the U.S. dollar, agreements and bookings, but may vary due to factors including, but not limited to, changes in guest demand, changes in fuel prices, delays in aircraft delivery, general economic conditions, competitive environment, ability to effectively implement and maintain critical systems and other factors and risks described in WestJet’s public reports and filings which are available under WestJet’s profile at Readers are cautioned that undue reliance should not be placed on forward-looking information as actual results may vary materially from the forward-looking information. WestJet does not undertake to update, correct or revise any forward-looking information as a result of any new information, future events or otherwise, except as may be required by applicable law.

Non-GAAP measures
This news release contains disclosure respecting non-GAAP performance measures including, without limitation, CASM, excluding fuel and employee profit share and return on invested capital. These measures are included to enhance the overall understanding of WestJet’s current financial performance and to provide an alternative method for assessing WestJet’s operating results in a manner that is focused on the performance of WestJet’s ongoing operations, and to provide a more consistent basis for comparison between reporting periods. These measures are not calculated in accordance with, or an alternative to, GAAP and do not have standardized meanings. Therefore, they may not be comparable to similar measures provided by other entities. Readers are urged to review the section entitled “Reconciliation of non-GAAP and additional GAAP measures” in WestJet’s management’s discussion and analysis of financial results for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2018 which is available under WestJet’s profile on SEDAR at, for a further discussion of such non-GAAP measures and a reconciliation of such measures to GAAP. The financial information accompanying this news release was prepared in accordance with International Financial Reporting Standards unless otherwise noted.

Management’s discussion and analysis of financial results and consolidated financial statements and notes for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2018, are available through the Internet in the Investor Relations section of or under WestJet’s SEDAR profile at

What’s the dirtiest surface on an airplane? The result may surprise you

Marketplace analyzed over 100 samples on 18 flights, finding mould, staph and potentially harmful pathogens

Marketplace tested more than 100 samples collected on 18 Porter, Air Canada and WestJet flights, swabbing the seatbelt, tray table, headrest, seat pocket and washroom handle on each trip. (Charlsie Agro/CBC)

Used tampons, sandwiches, loose condoms, smartphones, dirty diapers. What do they all have in common?

Flight attendants tell Marketplace they’ve all been found in the seat pockets of airplanes.

Marketplace’s latest investigation reveals that the surfaces on a plane you’re likely touching most often might not be as clean as you think, and some are contaminated with bacteria and other pathogens.

Marketplace staff took a total of 18 short-haul flights between Ottawa and Montreal, flying with Canada’s three major airlines — Air Canada, WestJet and Porter — at various times throughout the day.

On each flight, the following surfaces were swabbed: seatbelt, tray table, headrest, seat pocket and washroom handle. In total, Marketplace collected more than 100 samples.

Microbiologist Keith Warriner tested the samples gathered by the Marketplace team on 18 short-haul flights between Ottawa and Montreal (Norman Arnold/CBC)

Those samples were then analyzed at a lab at the University of Guelph by microbiologist Keith Warriner, who tested the samples for a number of different types of bacteria, as well as yeast, mould, E. coli and other pathogens.

“I was really amazed about how much we actually recovered from them,” said Warriner.  “Some of them more scary than others.”

Nearly half of the surfaces swabbed contained levels of bacteria or yeast and mould that could put a person at risk for infection, Warriner said.

Yeast and mould were detected on the majority of the 18 flights, which Warriner said suggests that the surfaces were either not cleaned well or often enough.

The most contaminated surface on the plane was the headrest.

The most concerning finding for Warriner was E. coli bacteria detected on both the seat pocket and the headrest. The presence of E. coli indicates fecal contamination, and the bacteria can cause intestinal infections, with symptoms that can include diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain.

“We’ve got to try and think how would fecal contamination get inside [the seat pocket],” said Warriner.


‘It’s mostly for esthetics’

Connor Remus has a pretty good idea how a seat pocket might have come into contact with feces. The former Porter employee said he has found used diapers and other trash in seat pockets before.

“Everything goes in there; everything from the paper-thin vomit bags, to used wrappers…. I found used tampons in seat pockets before.”

Marketplace spoke to more than a dozen former flight attendants and customer service representatives about their experiences working on airplanes. Most said it was their responsibility to clean the planes between flights, but that there simply wasn’t enough time to properly disinfect an entire aircraft.

Former flight attendants describe a few reasons to avoid the seat pocket on an airplane:

Beware of dirty diapers: Former flight attendants share secrets from the sky

00:00 01:00

Three former flight attendants describe a few reasons to avoid the seat pocket on an airplane. 1:00

The reality, said Stéphane Poirier, who previously worked for WestJet, is that staff typically have less than 15 minutes to turn a plane around. “We had no time to wash the table or clean everything perfectly.”

There’s also no time between flights for staff to use cleansers or antibacterial spray, he said, noting cleaning solutions are often not allowed on board.

“We don’t have rags, we don’t have spray on board,” said Poirier. “Lots of [cleaners] are a dangerous good … so it’s either water from the aircraft, or a napkin.”

Any cleaning that does happen, said Remus, is often totally superficial. “It definitely was not a huge priority. And when it was a priority, it wasn’t necessarily for cleanliness, it was for an esthetic purpose.”

Bacteria found on contact surfaces

The levels of staph and mould Marketplace found on tray tables is evidence that the surface hasn’t been cleaned for some time, according to microbiologist and self-proclaimed “germ guy” Jason Tetro.

Travellers should pay particular attention to the tray-table result, he said, because it likely includes a kind of staph that may cause skin and soft-tissue infections, such as boils.

A sample shows the presence of mould, which was found on a blanket. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

“If you’re coming into contact with high levels of staphylococcus aureus, such as what you’re seeing here, then you definitely are at a higher risk of having something go wrong,” Tetro said.

Tetro suggests air passengers avoid putting their faces down on the tray table to sleep, and never placing food directly on the table surface before putting it in their mouths, as ingesting or inhaling staph can be especially harmful.

Even ‘germ guy’ went ew!

For Tetro, who works in infection control, the headrest results were the biggest surprise.

“I was shocked. Honestly, I have looked at planes, and I travel so much on planes, I’m aware of so many of the different places [where germs could be found],” he said. “But then I saw what you showed me with the headrest. And even I, the germ guy, went ‘ew.'”

The levels of staph and mould Marketplace found on tray tables is evidence that the surface hasn’t been cleaned for some time, according to microbiologist Jason Tetro. (Dave Macintosh/CBC)

Hemolytic bacteria, mainly associated with strep throat, found on one headrest was especially concerning for Tetro, as was the presence of staph on that surface.

“It really is about ingestion or inhalation,” said Tetro. “If you happen to have this on a headrest, and you’re moving your head back and forth, then there’s a very good likelihood that you could potentially be inhaling this or getting it into close enough contact that it could get into you.”

Tetro added that it can also get into wounds. “If you have acne and you’re touching your face all the time, you could get something called impetigo, you could get cystitis,” he said.

Marketplace’s samples were analyzed at a lab at the University of Guelph. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

And it’s important to note that if staph and mould is found living on these surfaces, other microbes can live there too, he said.

“It tells you that there’s not a sufficient amount of cleaning going on; yeast and mould are tougher to clean than bacteria,” Tetro said.

Marketplace also tested the blankets offered to passengers from two of the carriers: Air Canada and WestJet. (Porter didn’t offer a blanket.) The yeast, mould and high counts of bacteria on the WestJet blanket surprised Warriner.

Lab testing on this WestJet blanket showed yeast, mould and high counts of bacteria — surprising as it came in a cellophane wrapper. The airline said it was concerned by the finding, as all of its blankets are sold new and come sealed, straight from a distributor. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

“What was worrying was this was in a cellophane wrapper,” he said. “It shouldn’t have been used.”

When Marketplace reached out to WestJet about these results, the airline said it was concerned by the findings.

“We are looking into this matter further, as all blankets sold on our flights are new (not previously used) and come sealed straight from the distributor,” the company said in an email.

Airlines respond

The only time a plane gets a proper cleaning is when it is not in service, according to the former airline employees.

All three airlines declined to be interviewed but did respond to emailed questions. Air Canada, WestJet and Porter all said they follow Canadian and international cabin-grooming rules.

These samples show the presence of E. coli, which was detected on both the headrest and the seat pocket. The presence of E. coli indicates fecal contamination, and the bacteria can cause intestinal infections. (Jenny Cowley/CBC)

In its response, Air Canada pointed to a study that it says proves hygiene on airlines is dirty, but no more dirty than any other public space. The study was funded in part by Boeing, the world’s largest airplane manufacturer.

WestJet said it was concerned by the findings, but that staff do their best, given the fact that planes are public spaces. The company said its planes are cleaned daily, noting that aircraft are given a light groom after every flight, a full groom every 24 hours, a complete interior detail monthly, and an enhanced, hyper-focused groom every year.

Porter said the company is confident about its efforts to keep passengers and staff safe. Porter also said that when an aircraft is done flying for the day, teams clean the interior from nose to tail, as well as carry out an intensive cleaning every three weeks.

Tetro advises that airline passengers need to take cleanliness matters into their own hands. He suggests travellers wipe down the surfaces they’re going to touch and always carry hand sanitizer with enough alcohol to actually kill germs.

“Fifteen seconds on your hands, 30 seconds on surfaces, and you’re good to go,” said Tetro.