CALGARY - WestJet said Friday it aims to wind down Sunwing Airlines and integrate the low-cost carrier into its mainline business by October of next year.

WestJet, which bought the Toronto-based company's main airline and vacation divisions in May in a major consolidation of the aviation market, saidSunwing's 18 Boeing 737s and 2,000 employees will be folded into the Calgary-based carrier in a “seamless transition.”

WestJet and Sunwing together make up 37 per cent of seat capacity on direct flights to sun destinations, and 72 per cent from Western Canada, according to a report from the Competition Bureau last fall.

Some experts have warned that the move could mean less service and higher fares - particularly in Western Canada and smaller cities across the country.

As a condition of Ottawa's sign-off on the Sunwing acquisition, both parties pledged to maintain capacity on the most affected routes and keep the Sunwing Vacations head office in Toronto and a regional one in Montreal for at least five years.

The integration process is underway as WestJet prepares to bring budget subsidiary Swoop under its flagship banner by the end of next month after reaching a new collective agreement that put pilots at both segments onto a level field of pay.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2023.