WestJet cuts not a surprise, but ‘pretty bad’ for region, says MUN dean of business

From CBC News – link to story

‘Nobody has a crystal ball’ on when things will change in pandemic, says Isabelle Dostaler

CBC News · Posted: Oct 15, 2020

WestJet will soon no longer fly to Moncton, N.B., Fredericton, Sydney, N.S., and Charlottetown and will drastically cut back its service to St. John’s and Halifax. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

This week’s announcement by WestJet that it will be slashing 80 per cent of its Atlantic Canada flights — including between St. John’s and Toronto — isn’t unexpected in the current travel and economic climate, but it is grim news for Newfoundland and Labrador, says Memorial University’s dean of business.

Isabelle Dostaler told CBC News on Thursday the service reduction is “pretty bad for our Atlantic region.”

“It’s not unexpected, I’m not surprised by it, but I think it’s almost a catastrophe,” said Dostaler.

The Calgary-based airline said Wednesday it is eliminating 100 flights effective Nov. 2, saying it has become “increasingly unviable to serve these markets” during the COVID-19 pandemic and Atlantic bubble travel restrictions.

“Since the pandemic’s beginning, we have worked to keep essential air service to all of our domestic airports; however, demand for travel is being severely limited by restrictive policies and third-party fee increases that have left us out of runway without sector-specific support,” WestJet CEO Ed Sims said in a press release Wednesday.

The Atlantic premiers released a joint statement Wednesday citing “deep concern” with the latest announcement of flight reductions from WestJet — on top of cuts this summer to some regional Air Canada services — that will “create serious issues for the Atlantic region.”

The statement added that the premiers are calling for urgent action to address critical transportation links that connect Atlantic Canada to the rest of the country, acknowledging that the federal government made a commitment in its speech from the throne that it would work with partners to support regional routes for airlines.

From an economic standpoint, however, these are really, really tough times.- Isabelle Dostaler

To Dostaler, the WestJet news represents a double-edged sword in the COVID-19 era.

“It’s really, really difficult because … there’s such a trade-off,” she said.

“We’ve done so well, right? Our people are healthy … we don’t have much cases in our region and even less in Newfoundland, but there’s a price to pay for that. You don’t have as much people travelling, traffic has decreased dramatically, so it’s really a difficult situation for air carriers. So not surprising, but not good at all.”

Isabelle Dostaler is the dean of business at Memorial University in St. John’s. (Aaron Saltzman/CBC)

Dostaler said the airline business is difficult to run when flight capacity is between 10 and 20 per cent, running near-empty flights.

“They lose so much money, they’re burning a lot of cash, and it’s very hard for all the carriers,” she said.

“You can complain and certainly the aviation stakeholders are not happy at all with the Atlantic bubble, right, but it’s the trade-off that we’ve made. We’ve done really well, that’s also the price that we have to pay.”

Space for regional smaller carriers

While the Atlantic premiers said they will be in talks with the federal government, Dostaler added she has “mixed feelings” about the idea of an injection of money from Ottawa into the airline industry.

“I don’t really like the idea of the government putting in money in airlines,” she told CBC’s St. John’s Morning Show. “When things are going really well, what’s happening? They have these huge salaries paid to leaders of these organizations.”

She added that there is capacity in Canada for smaller regional carriers to set up routes — although, there are some drawbacks.

“The thing the Canadian public doesn’t know is that there is entrepreneurial capacity in the field of aviation. And yes, you know, there would be room for smaller players  PAL is one in our province. There are others across the country,” she said.

Atlantic premiers concerned as WestJet ends most flights in region

“Often the public doesn’t know them, so it would be neat to have an aviation policy in Canada that creates good conditions for small players to survive, which is something extremely difficult to do when you operate in the shadow of Air Canada.”

That difficulty of competing with big carriers like Air Canada, Dostaler said, is that larger companies are able to lower their prices to compete with smaller carriers.

“For communities, it’s good, because you have low fares for a while, until the new players are out of the market and fares go up again,” she said.

“It’s challenging — we live in a challenging country, right? Long, long distances and very low density of population.”

WestJet said it would return to the routes it has cut when it becomes economically viable to do so, but Dostaler said that could prove more difficult — and take longer — than people may realize.

There’s no guarantee, she said, that things will return to the way they were pre-pandemic

“Nobody has a crystal ball. It’s difficult to put a number of years and say, in two, three, four years — a few months ago we would hear, ‘Well, it will take two years,’ and now people are talking another three or four years. It also depends on us, right? How will we behave, will we go back to our old habits of travelling a lot?” Dostaler said.

“And you can think in terms of saving the planet in a sense and lesser amounts of emissions and all that. All in all it might not be a bad thing. From an economic standpoint, however, these are really, really tough times.”

WestJet Customer Satisfaction Takes Off

News from Destination CRM – link to story

July 27, 2020 – By Phillip Britt, technology writer

Article Featured Image

WestJet, along with its regional airlines, WestJet Encore and WestJet Link, offers scheduled service to more than 110 destinations in North America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Europe and to more than 250 destinations in 20 countries through partnerships with other airlines. The carrier is based in Calgary, in the province of Alberta, Canada.

Customer service has always been important to the carrier, which was named the Best Airline in Canada by TripAdvisor for three consecutive years, from 2017 to 2019.

Yet the airline’s contact center was often overwhelmed during severe weather that caused it to cancel many flights. In such instances, customers could be on hold for 20 minutes or longer, according to Tania Hoque, WestJet’s manager of digital and innovation.

To correct this, the carrier sought an automated system that could handle basic queries, like flight status requests, freeing contact center agents to handle more complicated requests. The carrier also wanted something that could be built on top of existing platforms so customers wouldn’t need to download another app to use it.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

WestJet started searching for a solution in 2017 and reviewed more than 100 options. It eventually chose Netomi’s AI system. WestJet signed with Netomi in February 2018 but didn’t go live until August of that year.

“We liked the design technology powered by artificial intelligence to help guests self-serve,” Hoque says, emphasizing Netomi’s neural network and reinforced learning capabilities. “It understands guest patterns.”

Once it learns guest patterns, the technology can apply that information to better respond to subsequent callers with similar requests.

Netomi also won the WestJet contract because, as a young, nimble company, it was willing to provide WestJet with 24/7 support and negotiate on price, according to Hoque.

“We are not a small company; we wanted to make sure that the technology handled all of our stakeholders’ needs,” Hoque explains. “We wanted to make sure we developed all of the right use cases.”

Since the system is automated, any mistakes in rollout would have multiplied quickly, she points out.

WestJet already had 1 million Facebook followers, so the company chose to debut the Netomi AI on Facebook Messenger. Rather than employ a generic interface, WestJet personalized the bot by naming it “Juliet,” after one of the airline’s first aircraft.

WestJet integrated the AI-enabled bot into Facebook Messenger, making it the first point of contact for customers, who were initially introduced to the bot via westjet.com, WestJet’s mobile apps, ads that click to Messenger, and posts on its Facebook page with a “Send Message” call to action. The AI was also introduced during on-hold times when customers called into customer support.

Juliet is deeply integrated with core business systems, so it can provide real-time information on everything from flight status, gate information, and booking availability to questions about traveling with pets, baggage fees, and how a bride can carry on her wedding dress, a surprisingly popular query, according to Netomi.

WestJet had already been having tremendous success with Juliet, but the technology really proved its worth when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in lockdowns, according to Hoque.

Today, Juliet handles 75 percent of WestJet’s queries without ever having to involve a human agent. Engagement with customers has increased fivefold. Since customers can get questions answered quickly, they’re more willing to ask additional questions, Hoque says. “The bot is helping build loyalty.”

When the pandemic first hit in March, the volume of queries going to Juliet increased by a factor of 40, Hoque says.

Based on its success with Juliet so far, WestJet plans to expand Netomi’s AI technology on its website, according to Hoque. 

The Payoff

After installing Netomi’s AI, WestJet was able to do the following:

  • handle 75 percent of queries without agent intervention;
  • increase customer engagement fivefold; and
  • scale to handle 40 times the number of queries when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

WestJet saves 1,000 pilot jobs through ALPA agreements

From WestJet

CALGARY, April 30, 2020 /CNW/ – Today, WestJet announced it has reached an agreement with the Airline Pilot Association (ALPA), to save more than 1,000 pilot jobs at WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop amidst the COVID-19 crisis. The airline had previously confirmed that 1,700 pilots across WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop had received layoff notifications, effective either May 1 or June 1, 2020. 

“I’m pleased that ALPA and WestJet, through robust negotiations and collaboration have come together to minimize the impact of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic on our pilot groups,” said Jeff Martin, WestJet Executive Vice-President, and Chief Operating Officer. “We thank ALPA for the joint effort in working with us to assist our airline in remaining flexible and competitive. Our pilots will be a critical element of our recovery and retaining these important roles leaves us better positioned to recover strongly and return WestJet to a global airline.” 

Said ALPA MEC Chair, representing WestJet and Swoop, Captain Dave Colquhoun, “The agreement we have reached is due to the dedication of the WestJet executive and the WestJet pilots, in a time where everyone is making sacrifices to protect our airline.  ALPA’s elected leadership appreciates the time and effort that was involved in working together to minimize the impact to our members and we look forward to the time when all of our pilots, and many of the other WestJetters who are casualties of this crisis, are back to work at WestJet.” 

Said ALPA MEC Chair, representing WestJet Encore, Captain Ryan Leier, “On behalf of WestJet Encore pilots, I am pleased we were able to successfully reach an agreement. We recognize that these are uncharted skies as we deal with the effects of COVID-19 and this agreement will help our pilots and the airline get through this together.” 

The agreement allows the WestJet Group of Companies to retain pilots across the three groups, through the amendment of terms to the current agreements.  

WestJet continues to work collaboratively with its employee and labour groups as well as all levels of government to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 crisis to the airline and its employees.  

WestJet is utilizing the Government of Canada’s Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) to assist in navigating this pandemic while work is not available due to the downturn in demand for air travel. Where it is of benefit to the employee, WestJet will use CEWS to keep the inactive employee on the payroll to ensure they remain connected to the company. 

ALPA will communicate specific details to WestJet, WestJet Encore and Swoop Pilots and WestJet will not be providing further information. 

Masks, screening, vaccines: Airlines consider what a new normal might look like before people pack onto planes again

News from Calgary Herald -link to story

Emily Jackson  •  28 April 2020

A passenger wheels her luggage near an Air Canada logo at Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 1, 2020 in Toronto. COLE BURSTON/GETTY IMAGES FILES

As airlines around the world grapple with the financial fallout from grounding the vast majority of their fleets, pilots and cabin crews during the coronavirus pandemic, preliminary conversations are being held about what needs to happen before people start packing into airports and planes again.

Health and safety is top of mind for flight attendants as airlines start to discuss what the new normal might look like when full schedules are reintroduced, whenever that might be, said Wesley Lesosky, president of the Air Canada Component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“The discussion has to happen on what’s the standard going forward,” Lesosky said in an interview. “The practicality on a plane is you can’t have social distancing to the extent you’d want it — you can’t have that two-metre distance.”

As it stands, the 2,000 active members still flying for Canada’s largest airline and Air Canada Rouge — thousands more were placed on off-duty status as there’s no flights for them to serve — wear gloves, masks, glasses and gowns on flights loaded with hand sanitizer where food and bar service has been cut to a snack box and a bottle of water upon entering the plane.

CUPE is content with the equipment provided so far, although it continues to push for enhancements such as face shields, Lesosky said. But before normal operations resume, questions need to be answered about what gear will be provided and adopted on a longer-term basis.

Flight attendants and pilots unions alike praised Transport Canada for requiring all passengers to wear masks on board planes.

But attempts at social distancing on board a plane where customers are used to sitting inches apart poses a different challenge.

Some airlines including WestJet Airlines Ltd. have temporarily stopped booking middle seats to give passengers more room aboard flights, but airlines including Ireland’s budget carrier Ryranair DAC argue that selling only two thirds of seats isn’t a viable option if they want to make enough money to stay in business. Not to mention, passengers are still well within two metres of the passengers in front and behind them even if middle seats are empty.

Still, the Air Line Pilots Association Canada, which represents WestJet and WestJet Encore pilots, is calling on Transport Canada and the federal government for greater mandated protection for aircrews now and during the recovery.

“With no mandatory requirements in place to protect aircrews, they are putting themselves and their loved ones at risk every time they report for duty,” ALPA Canada president Capt. Tim Perry said in a statement last week.

An Air Canada Jazz pilot is seen leaving Toronto Pearson International Airport. COLE BURSTON/GETTY IMAGES FILES

The ALPA has called on the government to allow air crews to move through restricted airport areas and through customs separately from customers to minimize their exposure. It has also asked for better passenger screening prior to boarding and expedited testing for aircrews.

Other go-forward requirements are more intangible, such as a public that trusts it’s safe to get on a plane.

“One of the biggest concerns that we all have, not just airports, is consumer confidence,” said Canadian Airports Council president Daniel Gooch, whose organization represents Canada’s largest airports and many of its regional ones. “Public trust is one big factor.”

Airports are also brainstorming what changes need to be made before normal operations resume, whether that involves vaccines, social distancing or passenger screening. But it’s too soon to say what needs to happen as focus remains on the immediate losses to the sector, which might take longer to recover than other industries due to international travel restrictions, Gooch said.

Airports collectively expect to take a $1.8 to $2.2-billion hit this year as revenue dries up with passenger volumes that are expected to drop to 45 per cent of 2019 levels, Gooch said.

Separately, the National Airlines Council of Canada said Tuesday its members have seen a 90 per cent drop in capacity, as revenue has fallen and bookings for the rest of the year remain subdued given uncertainty surrounding travel restrictions.

Air Transat aircraft sit on the tarmac at Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Air Transat aircraft sit on the tarmac at Toronto Pearson International Airport. COLE BURSTON/BLOOMBERG FILES

“The disruptions could also put at risk about 245,500 jobs in Canada and US$18.3 billion in GDP supported by the air transport industry and foreign tourists travelling to Canada by air,” the NACC said in a statement, noting that a number of projects and work with suppliers across its supply chain have been halted due to the pandemic.

“The economic impact of the pandemic is expected to continue materially for the remainder of the year and into 2021,” the NACC said.

Mike McNaney, CEO of the NACC, which represents Air Canada, Air Transat, Jazz Aviation LP and WestJet, said it wants Ottawa to introduce liquidity measures for the industry quickly, similar to efforts seen in the United States, Europe and Asia to support the aviation sector.

Ottawa has said in recent weeks that it’s working with airlines and planning ways to provide some form of relief for the beleaguered industry. Air Canada and other airlines have also adopted the government’s wage subsidy program to cut costs.

“Time is of the essence as the economic situation facing Canada’s airlines is deteriorating rapidly,” NACC said in a statement. “The greater the economic damage to the industry, the less competitive and poised for recovery it will be as other countries provide significant direct financial aid to their own carriers.”

Financial Post

WestJet to layoff 1,700 pilots due to COVID-19 pandemic

News from City News 1130 – link to story and updates

BY TARNJIT PARMAR Posted Apr 15, 202

A WestJet plane takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Vancouver on Monday, May 13, 2019. Onex Corp. has signed a friendly deal to buy WestJet Airlines Ltd. in a transaction it valued at $5 billion, including assumed debt. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan HaywardSUMMARY

  • WestJet is confirming the pilots have received layoff notices, effective May 1st or June 1st
  • In an emailed statement, the airline states these layoffs are a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – WestJet is laying off 1,700 pilots across the airline, as well as WestJet Encore.

WestJet is confirming the pilots have received layoff notices, which will be effective as of May 1st or June 1st, depending on the pilot.

In an emailed statement, the airline states these layoffs are a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions put in place due to closed borders.

WestJet says since only essential travel is being encouraged, there has been a sharp decline in passengers as well as the grounding of nearly three-quarters of the WestJet fleet.

While the airline says the layoffs are a “last resort”, the impact of the pandemic on the aviation industry is “colossal”.

Last week the airline announced it was set to rehire nearly 6,400 workers via the federal wage subsidy.

Soap and water to fight COVID-19 not available on all Canadian flights

News provided by CBC News – link to full story and updates

Passengers on some shorter routes and smaller aircraft have to rely on hand sanitizer in washrooms

Dave Seglins, Madeline McNair, Matthew Pierce · CBC News · Posted: Mar 14, 2020

The World Health Organization recommended in a 2009 report that airports and airlines around the world adopt touchless faucets, like this one, to reduce contact and enhance hygiene. Some of Air Canada’s smaller planes on short-haul regional flights don’t have running water at all. (Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Washing your hands with warm water and soap is what Canadian health officials advise is the best defence against the coronavirus, yet travellers on many domestic flights will have to chance it because there’s no running water on board.

Passengers flying on shorter routes and smaller aircraft on Air Canada, WestJet and Porter Airlines are stuck relying only on hand sanitizer in aircraft washrooms, CBC News has found.

“I kind of felt like I was riding in a porta-potty in the sky,” Ken Walker of Ottawa told CBC News about his Air Canada flight Wednesday returning home from Halifax.

“The washrooms have a shelf where a sink would normally be. But instead of a sink they just have hand sanitizer,” he said. “I think a sink with running water and soap would probably be effective on an airplane.”

He complained to Canada’s Transport Minister by tagging him on Twitter.

Too bad @aircanada went for savings vs. safety in their latest small airplanes. No running water in the bathrooms @CBCOttawa. Just a shelf with a hand sanitizer bottle. In a washroom. Like a porta-potty in the sky. @MarcGarneau


Airlines stress they have stepped up cleaning aboard planes amidst the current health emergency and are following advice from the Public Health Agency of Canada to provide hand sanitizer as an alternative on aircraft not equipped with running water.

But Canadian health officials and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have advised that washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the most effective way to kill the coronavirus.

‘Water would have been nice’

Air Canada insists all of its “mainline aircraft” have running water systems. 

But a CBC News investigation found at least one flight from China last month, amid the worsening coronavirus situation, flew despite a mechanical issue that knocked out its running water. 

Some of Air Canada’s smaller planes on short-haul regional flights don’t have running water either.

Heather Butt of St. John’s says even hand sanitizer was scarce Wednesday on the final leg of her journey home from Tampa, Florida, via Montreal and Halifax aboard a small Air Canada plane without running water in the washroom.

“It made me feel very unsafe, stressed and nervous,” Butt told CBC News. “My concern was that with this virus on the go it would be easily transmitted without proper facilities provided to travellers for cleanliness.

“I was very glad when it landed and we could get off.”

Butt also voiced her concern on Twitter.

Just returned from vacation via Air Canada and the last leg of our journey didn’t even have water in the teny tiny washroom. That was not very sanitary especially under today’s circumstances. Never mind a menu, water would have been nice.

HC@hcbuttReplying to @LandLopers @AirCanada

WestJet acknowledges that 47 of its Q400-series aircraft used on shorter flights have no running water, and passengers must use hand sanitizer instead.

Porter Airlines, based in Toronto, says none of its 29 aircraft (also Q400s) has running water.

“The lavatory is instead outfitted with aviation-certified hand sanitizer that meets health and safety standards established by the Public Health Agency of Canada and World Health Organization,” Brad Cicero, Porter’s director of communications and public affairs, wrote in an emailed statement to CBC News. “Many airlines use this protocol on certain aircraft types.”

Health Canada and the CDC both say if soap and water is not available, the next best option is hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol to be effective in killing the coronavirus — though some experts say alcohol concentration as high as 70-90 per cent is required.

The World Health Organization recommended in a 2009 report that airports and airlines around the world adopt  “automatic faucets” using “electronic eyes” to reduce contact and enhance hygiene.

While many airports have installed automatic washroom taps triggered by touchless sensors, many planes in Canada`s airline fleets operate without the technology.

‘A place to avoid’

Experts all agree that hand washing is the best defence against coronavirus, but airplane washrooms present a unique challenge given they are cramped, used by many people and may not be equipped for 20-second rinsing.

University of Guelph microbiologist Keith Warriner says he avoids using airplane washrooms altogether.

“It’s a very unusual environment. A lot of people closed in … the water pressure isn’t very high so you tend not to wash your hands so effectively. And they give you the smallest of towels. So there’s more likelihood that you might catch something … than actually remove.”

WATCH: Proper hand washing on aircraft almost impossible, microbiologist says

Airplane washrooms pose risk, expert says

Warriner conducted a study into germs and pathogens aboard aircraft for CBC’s Marketplace in 2018. He just flew back to Toronto from Orlando, Florida, on Thursday and says he didn’t go to the bathroom during the three-hour flight.

“I don’t tend to try to go on planes. Because when we did the Marketplace program, in actual fact, we found E. coli and all kinds of things on the latch into the bathroom and out of the bathroom.

“Certainly it’s a place to avoid,” he said. 

The lack of water and risk of dirty bathrooms leaves passengers and crew in an untenable position, according to the head of one airline workers’ union.

“Our union’s position is that running water should be available on all planes based on the fact that hand washing is paramount during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Wesley Lesosky, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ Air Canada component.

Air Canada, WestJet and Porter say they are following the advice of public health officials and meeting all regulations and standards currently required by Transport Canada.

A Transport Canada spokesperson confirmed the federal regulator has no rules requiring airlines to provide running water in washrooms.

“Where there is no hot water, the air operator would provide sufficient antiseptic agent to employees and those persons granted access to the aircraft, such as passengers,” wrote Alexandre Desjardins in an email.

WestJet Dash 8 landing accident

News provided by LARA News – link to full story

By Glenn Sands February 3, 2020

The nose gear of a de Havilland Dash 8-400 operated by WestJet collapsed at the aircraft touched down at Terrace Northwest Regional Airport in British Columbia on January 31. The Dash 8 was operating from Vancouver, British Columbia when the accident happened.

Canada’s Aviation Herald stated that as C-FKWE touched down on the airport’s Runway 33, the plane’s nose gear collapsed before it came to halt on the runway. The flight’s 42 passengers left the aircraft with no injuries.

The Dash 8 was being operated by WestJet Encore, which is a regional arm of the LCC Canadian airline. The airline selected the Dash 8 to serve in the remote regions and currently has 47 of the type, most of which arrived in 2018.

Porter replacing Dash 8 door seals to address depressurisation risk

News provided by FlightGlobal.com – link to full story

02 August, 2019, FlightGlobal.com by Jon Hemmerdinger, Boston

Porter Airlines is replacing door seals on De Havilland Canada Dash 8-400 turboprops following a rapid cabin decompression on 17 July, the Toronto-based airline says.

The cause of that decompression differs from a cargo door handle issue that has caused inflight depressurisations of several other Dash 8-400s recently, Porter adds.

The July depressurisation involved a Porter Q400 headed from Toronto to Boston. After the cabin lost altitude, the pilots descended to 10,000ft, determined the aircraft had no structural damage and continued to Boston, where they landed safely, according to an incident report from the Transportation Safety Board of Canada.

An inspection determined the aircraft’s “aft baggage blowout panel was loose”, the report says.

“This situation related to an imperfection in the door seal, which caused the panel to move,” Porter tells FlightGlobal. “The system worked as intended to equalise pressure in different areas of the aircraft.”

Porter “has a proactive programme to replace door seals, although there is no required timeframe for doing so,” the airline adds. “The failure rate is extremely low.”

De Havilland says the incident’s “root cause was found to be a damaged aft cargo door seal, which would have been replaced.”

“We are supporting Porter to resolve these technical issues, recommending a pressure decay check and have suggested regular inspections of the door seals to ensure they are in good condition in order to minimise events such as these,” De Havilland adds.

Canadian aviation regulatory Transport Canada “is aware of the recent occurrence on a Porter Airlines Q400, and is working with the manufacturer to determine if an unsafe condition is present,” it tells FlightGlobal.

Porter says that Transport Canada has not issued directives related to the door seal issue.

Porter stresses the 17 July incident “is different” from a cargo door handle issue that has caused inflight depressurisations of at least three other Dash 8-400s, including two Porter and one WestJet Encore aircraft, in the last year.

Porter and WestJet have said they are making modifications to their fleets to address the cargo door handle issue.

WestJet CEO says Boeing 737 Max grounding a ‘substantial loss’ ahead of buyout

News provided by The Toronto Star/The Canadian Press – link to full story

By The Canadian Press Mon., July 29, 2019

CALGARY – WestJet chief executive Ed Sims says the grounding of the Boeing 737 Max is having a “substantial negative impact” on the airline, even as the company reported robust earnings in its first full quarter without the fuel-efficient jetliner and on the cusp of its acquisition by Onex Corp.

In a phone interview, Sims said the grounding — now expected to continue at least through November — has forced WestJet to increase spending on fuel and cut its routes.

Sims declined to quantify the financial hit, saying he is in discussions with Boeing about the “substantial loss” of WestJet’s 13 Max 8s, which comprise about 10 per cent of the carrier’s seat capacity.

WestJet nonetheless beat analysts’ expectations with a 380 per cent profit increase year over year to $44.3 million last quarter, as a boost in passengers bumped up revenue 11 per cent to $1.21 billion.

Analyst Cameron Doerksen of National Bank of Canada says in an investor note the grounding will hinder capacity growth and raise expenses for Canadian airlines, but that lower jet fuel costs and a stronger Canadian dollar may help offset those headwinds.

On Friday, Alberta’s superior court approved the $3.5-billion deal between WestJet and Onex Corp., which expects to complete the buyout following further regulatory green lights later this year.

Authorities across the globe banned the Boeing aircraft from their skies last spring after two crashes — in Indonesia in October and Ethiopia in March — killed all 346 passengers aboard, including 18 Canadians.

WestJet says it found replacement aircraft for about 700 of the 1,000-plus 737 Max departures scheduled in June, the final month of the second quarter.

Sims said a sale of regional carrier Encore or budget offshoot Swoop are not on WestJet’s agenda at the moment, and that no layoffs of its 14,000 employees will stem from the buyout.

WestJet, founded as a no-frills regional upstart in 1996, has set its sights on Air Canada in recent years, challenging the carrier’s dominance on international routes by adding transatlantic flights, wide-body planes and premium fares.

The airline has also grappled with unionization and higher costs, which have offset some of its revenue growth. The company is expected to earn a per-share profit of $1.24 this year compared to $2.92 in 2015, according to analysts polled by financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

Plane blows 2 tires on landing at Edmonton International Airport

News provided by CBC News – link to full story

No one was injured in the incident

Trevor Howlett · CBC News · Posted: Jul 19, 2019

A WestJet Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft, like this one shown here, blew two tires on landing Friday at Edmonton International Airport. (Pat Fogg/CBC)

Passengers on a WestJet flight to Edmonton had an unexpected scare Friday evening as their plane blew its two front tires while landing.

The flight was WS 3362 from Fort McMurray to Edmonton. There were 70 passengers on the flight. No one was injured in the incident. The plane was a Bombardier Q400. 

Thunderstorms in the area exacerbated the situation for passengers, as crews could not attend to the plane due to lightning risk, so the plane remained on the tarmac. It was about a 80 minutes later that passengers finally got to the gate. 

Ian Williams was on the flight at the time, heading home to Edmonton. 

“I knew we were landing in a storm, but all of a sudden there was a downdraft that slammed the front nose down, and all of a sudden we heard the tires go pop,” said Williams. 

Williams said the nose of the plane looked to be damaged. 

WestJet said the aircraft will be out of service, which will affect other flights.

“The aircraft has subsequently been removed from service for further inspection from our maintenance team and as a result flight 3125 and 3198 have been cancelled due to limited aircraft availability,” WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell said in a statement.

“Our teams are working on reaccommodation options for guests affected by those cancellations and we apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.”

Bell said the delay isn’t expected to affect connecting flights for passengers on WS 3362.

Williams praised the pilot for his handling of the situation and said he didn’t feel like the plane was in any danger.