WestJet is making a substantial addition to its fleet with the purchase of 42 aircraft as the airline plans to expand its low-cost offerings, with plans to add routes to sun destinations from cities across Canada.
The Calgary-based airline announced the agreement with Boeing for the purchase of the 737-10 MAX planes on Thursday.
The purchase, which was on top of an existing order of 23 aircraft, includes the option to add 22 more planes depending on demand.
The purchase is a part of the airline's plan to expand its low-cost offerings and offer sun and leisure flying across Canada, said WestJet Group's chief executive officer, Alexis von Hoensbroech.
Earlier this month, WestJet said in a press release that it would be suspending several routes to Atlantic Canada, including flights between Halifax and Montreal, as of Oct. 28. Spring flight schedules are not yet available.
WestJet chief commercial officer John Weatherill said the decision was difficult but will help in the long run, as the airline shifts more of its eastern routes to sun and leisure destinations.
However, he said WestJet is not stopping Atlantic flights completely; instead, von Hoensbroech said the airline plans to ramp up its cross-country flights and flights from the East to leisure destinations including the Southern U.S. and the Caribbean.
“What we will do less, is flying within the East,” said von Hoensbroech. “So flights between Montreal and Toronto will decrease but Montreal to Cancun will increase.”
“We are a low-cost carrier and we want to improve our low-cost positioning,” said von Hoensbroech.
Supporting this move is the pending Sunwing acquisition, given Sunwing's focus of servicing Eastern Canada's leisure market, said WestJet's chief executive officer.
Brought with the incoming aircraft is the need for more cabin crew, ground handlers and pilots, a challenge recognized by WestJet's chief executive officer, as staffing levels have been an industry-wide problem after the return of domestic and international travel.
While some roles are more challenging to fill, von Hoensbroech said that he is confident WestJet will find enough staff for the expansion and said it will create hundreds and thousands of additional job and career opportunities within WestJet.
“If you're a pilot and you are joining an airline that is growing, this will give you a faster track to become a captain than if you are joining an airline that is not growing as fast as we do,” said von Hoensbroech.
WestJet says the Boeing 737-10 MAX provides the lowest cost per seat among mid-range aircraft and is part of the airline's plan to offer more affordable flights.
The order will start delivering at the end of 2024 through to 2028, expanding the fleet by 65 aircraft over six years.
WestJet wouldn't yet say whether the 42 additional aircraft will service WestJet alone or if they will also fly under Swoop, the airline's ultra-low-cost carrier.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.