CEO opens up about plans for Swoop, re­search projects

WestJet’s new low-cost air­line Swoop took its first flight out of Ed­mon­ton in June en route to Hamil­ton, Ont. The city’s air­port now holds two Swoop air­craft. WestJet pres­i­dent and CEO Ed Sims spoke to Dustin Cook about what’s com­ing next.

Edmonton Journal - - FRONT PAGE - dus­cook@post­ twit­­cook3

Q How has Swoop been far­ing in Ed­mon­ton?

A I’ve been re­ally pleased with the way Ed­mon­to­ni­ans have em­braced Swoop. The low­er­cost rel­a­tive to WestJet is fed di­rectly back into lower fares. We’re build­ing Swoop to be at a cost level around 30 to 35, up to 40 per cent lower than WestJet and we’ll keep the fares with the same dif­fer­en­tial.

Q Are there plans to fur­ther ex­pand Swoop in Ed­mon­ton?

A Ab­so­lutely. We’ve cur­rently got four air­craft in the fleet. We’ll have six by Christ­mas and we’ll have 10 by the fall of next year. As we grow from six to 10 we have the op­por­tu­nity to start build­ing the two core hubs for Swoop, the sec­ond here in Ed­mon­ton. It is very re­al­is­tic to think as we move to­ward 10 air­craft, there’ll be three air­craft based in Ed­mon­ton.

Q Is this a re­sponse to Flair Air­lines, an­other low-cost air­line based out of Ed­mon­ton?

A I wouldn’t see it as a re­sponse more than we see a great op­por­tu­nity in the mar­ket­place. Part of it is yes, we’re al­ways in­ter­ested in where our com­peti­tors can fly, part of it is see­ing an un­der­served mar­ket that ac­tu­ally wants the choice of ul­tra low­cost op­er­a­tion.

We cer­tainly see there’s a lot more mar­ket that we can stim­u­late

out of Ed­mon­ton. There is a very strong ed­u­ca­tional com­mu­nity up here and we’ll be look­ing to work with the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta and other ed­u­ca­tional providers to make sure that we’re pro­vid­ing com­pet­i­tive stu­dent fares.

Q Does WestJet have a re­la­tion­ship with the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta in the study of tech­nol­ogy and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI)?

A Very much so. One of the ar­eas that I’m very in­ter­ested in ex­plor­ing is what role AI can play in the con­ven­tional lounge con­cept. The dis­cus­sion we’ve been hav­ing with the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta is how can we cre­ate a tech­nol­ogy lounge that could be a tiny space, that could be fully dig­i­tal.

It gives you the op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with a chat­box or in­ter­act with an­other form of vir­tual hu­man­ity who can es­sen­tially re­book your travel, book your next travel. We launched a chat­box at the end of Au­gust called Juliet based on Face­book Mes­sen­ger and you can in­ter­act fully with her with any queries you have.

That’s re­ally what we’re try­ing to work with the U of A: how could we de­velop a con­cept for the Ed­mon­ton air­port?


WestJet pres­i­dent and CEO Ed Sims says his com­pany is work­ing on a part­ner­ship with the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta to cre­ate ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence ap­pli­ca­tions for their air­port lounges.

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