WestJet #2 on Canadian international routes; flies sun-seekers south from 17 airports

Image: WestJet started services between Toronto and Freeport on Grand Bahama this week
WestJet started services between Toronto and Freeport, Grand Bahama this week (Nassau is already served from both Toronto and Calgary). Welcoming WestJet: Transport minister Neko C Grant, tourism minister Vincent Vanderpool-Wallace, Westjet’s VP culture and communications, Richard Bartrem, and finance minister Zhivargo Laing.

Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet (analysed two years ago) is starting 13 new routes this week, all but one of them being international, allowing Canadians to flee the cold winter.

Having started as an airline intending to serve western Canada, WestJet has grown remarkably bigger than the founders could have dreamed of. Domestic Canadian services made up 77% of the airline’s capacity this month; however, this is caused by differences in frequency between domestic and international services. In terms of the number of routes operated by WestJet, nearly half are international and of these, the majority are operated more than twice weekly.

Chart: Canada: Top 10 international airlines - Weekly seat capacity, Canada originating international
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 9 November 2009

Still, WestJet is the second-largest international carrier by scheduled seat capacity on the Canadian market, second only to Air Canada. Fellow Canadian carriers Porter Airlines and Air Transat are far behind in places 13 and 15 behind the foreign airlines, predominantly the large US carriers.

Niche leisure markets only: US #1 country destination, but not served by all airports

Image: WestJet ribbon cutting
Canadians both fly to the US and to where Americans can’t go: WestJet’s Gregg Saretsky (executive VP, operations) and Cuba’s ambassador to Canada, H.E. Teresita Vicente Sotolongo this week officially opened the airline’s Toronto to Varadero service.

For the winter season, WestJet’s international routes are almost exclusively services to typical all-leisure destinations, leaving routes with both leisure and business demand, such as Calgary to Newark, to be served in summer only. A clear majority of the capacity on the international routes (75%) is to destinations in the United States, topped by Las Vegas (LAS), Orlando (MCO), Palm Springs (PSP), Fort Lauderdale (FLL) and Phoenix (PHX). The remainder is to the coastal resorts of Mexico (10%) and eight Caribbean island nations (15%) of which the most capacity is to the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Jamaica.

Chart: WestJet’s international airports - Weekly seat capacity by region of destination
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 9 November 2009
Image: westJet musical welcome
Calgary has what Toronto doesn’t have – WestJet services to Mexico. This week saw the launch of Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo from Calgary.

WestJet operates international flights from 17 Canadian airports, which by far exceeds the airline’s five usual bases at Calgary, Toronto-Pearson, Edmonton, Vancouver and Winnipeg. There are, however, variations in the network offering between WestJet’s Canadian bases – notably the airline’s largest international base, Toronto-Pearson, lacks any WestJet services to Mexico.


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