WestJet studies widebodies for the long-term future

Washington DC
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Low-cost Canadian carrier WestJet has spoken with Airbus and Boeing to learn more about widebody aircraft, but says that the addition of larger gauge types to its fleet is not likely to happen in the near future.

The airline's chief executive Gregg Saretsky says at the carrier's investors day today that the airline has engaged with both airframers to "be more knowledgeable" on the capabilities and pricing for long-haul widebody international aircraft.

However, he adds: "It's way too early us to be interested in any serious way." Saretsky points out that the airline has a five-year fleet plan, encompassing the carrier's new regional subsidiary WestJet Encore. The regional carrier must be fully deployed first before WestJet would consider adding widebodies to its fleet, he says.

"As you know, we have a history of being opportunistic... we are engaging early just to be ready but without any specific plans," says Saretsky.

WestJet will receive his 100th Boeing 737 this week, and will begin taking deliveries of Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s next year as it prepares to launch WestJet Encore in the third quarter of 2013.

WestJet's fleet plan through 2018 shows that it could have a 737 fleet as big as 135 aircraft or as few as 102 depending on whether it extends the leases on some aircraft expiring from 2014 through 2018.

The airline also has firm orders for 20 Q400s and options on another 25.