Growth in shrink­ing fares

West­jet CEO talks fu­ture of Swoop and part­ner­ship with the U of A

Edmonton Sun - - NEWS - Dustin Cook

West­jet’s new low-cost air­line Swoop took its first flight out of the Ed­mon­ton In­ter­na­tional Air­port in June en route to Hamil­ton. The city’s air­port now holds two Swoop air­craft and is the sec­ond op­er­a­tional base, cur­rently of­fer­ing five di­rect flights out of the pro­vin­cial cap­i­tal — three within Canada and two in the United States.

Just days af­ter an­nounc­ing three West­jet di­rect flights out of Cal­gary to three Euro­pean cap­i­tals, West­jet pres­i­dent and CEO Ed Sims stopped in Ed­mon­ton Fri­day to talk about what’s next for Swoop and the air­line’s re­la­tion­ship with the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta in study­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence. This con­ver­sa­tion has been edited for length and clar­ity.

QQ: 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

: How has Swoop been far­ing in Ed­mon­ton?

A: I’ve been re­ally pleased with the way ed­mon­to­ni­ans have em­braced Swoop. the lower-cost 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. 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 low-cost 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?

Jeff Mcin­tosh/the CANA­DIAN PRESS

West­jet pres­i­dent and CEO Ed Sims, shown here at the air­line’s an­nual meet­ing in Cal­gary in May, was in Ed­mon­ton Fri­day to dis­cuss the air­line’s grow­ing dis­count off­shoot and dis­cus­sions with the Uni­ver­sity of Al­berta around de­vel­op­ing AI to in­ter­act with pas­sen­gers.

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