WestJet will launch its ULCC in June 2018, with fares expected to go on sale early in the coming year, according to WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky.
During a conference call discussing the airline’s Q2 results, Saretsky provided details on the ULCC announced earlier this spring. According to Saretsky, Transport Canada approval and the receipt of an air operator’s certificate is expected to take place in Q1 of 2018.
He also cited the necessary reconfiguration of the ULCC’s first 10 737s from WestJet’s current fleet, which has been pushed to the spring as opposed to taking place during the busy holiday season.
“We’d rather not take that hit to capacity during a very strong time of year,” Saretsky said.
He added that head office staff for the ULCC are currently being hired and will move into a small office location separate from that of the main fleet. In addition, the ULCC will not be booked via Sabre, Saretsky explained, citing transaction costs.
In Calgary, Saretsky said that while a change in ownership at YYC has increased cooperation, challenges remain with a lack of connectivity between domestic and international flights in the facility's baggage system, requiring the hiring of additional workers to manually move bags.
“The fact that our winter schedule has massive increases in connectvitiy is going to stress that operation at YYC," Saretsky said. "We’re going to have to continue hiring additional people to manually move bags because the system won’t be available until 2019. We’re going to incur some significant costs until such time that those facilities are better equipped to handle the increasing numbers of travelers we’ll be bringing through there.”
He added that leisure travel is also on the rebound in Alberta, following a period of slow growth due to the province's economic challenges.
"I think that’s reflective of people feeling while there’s been a big spike in unemployment, in the most recent period it’s started to come back down," Saretsky explained, adding that WestJet will add a brand new service to Belize from Calgary this winter, as well as increasing services to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta, plus additional capacity to Palm Springs and Las Vegas. "People are less fearful of job loss and so those who may have closed their wallets last winter are more willing to dispose of a few dollars to plan their annual trip to the sun and we’re certainly seeing that in our forward bookings.
In its Q2 results, WestJet posted net earnings of $48.4 million, compared with the net earnings of $36.7 million reported in the second quarter of 2016, an increase of 32 per cent. During that period, WestJet flew a record 5.9 million guests.