WestJet’s dis­count launch now next June

The Hamilton Spectator - - BUSINESS - IAN BICKIS

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.

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