WestJet’s discount launch now next June
CALGARY — WestJet says the launch of its new no-frills, lowcost airline won’t be until next summer after initially announcing plans it would start offering flights later this year.
The delay comes in part after the airline decided to switch to a lower-cost booking system, chief executive officer Gregg Saretsky said Tuesday, as the company posted its second-quarter results.
“That adds a little bit of timeline to it, in terms of negotiating an agreement, and then the physical implementation of all the plumbing required to support it. And we’re taking our time to get it right.”
He said WestJet also doesn’t expect to get regulatory certificates until the first quarter of next year, which is when the airline aims to release an initial flight schedule and start selling tickets ahead of a June launch date for flights.
Saretsky said the delay means the company can use the quieter spring season to reconfigure the 10 Boeing 737s that it will be shifting over to the new carrier.
The service will be separate from WestJet, with a new head-office staff moving to an independent location early next year. The new airline will also be separate from the various stages of union efforts underway at WestJet itself.
The company will start contract negotiations with the Air Line Pilots Association, International, in September, after WestJet pilots voted in May to join the union. Five other unions are also campaigning to represent other WestJet employees.
“We’re the largest non-organized enterprise in the country, a very attractive target, but ultimately it will be up to WestJetters to decide,” Saretsky said.
He said he expects the pilot negotiations to be a lengthy process, noting that the pilot talks at JetBlue Airways in the U.S. have gone four years without a first agreement. He did not see any impact on the company this year or next from the unionization of the pilots.
This all comes as the company proceeds with planned international expansion on larger planes.
In the quarter ending June 30, WestJet earned $48.4 million, or 41 cents per share, compared with $36.7 million or 30 cents per share in the same quarter last year.