Canadian carrier WestJet intends to begin flying Boeing 737-800 cargo aircraft next month after having received the required regulatory approvals.
The Calgary-based airline on 20 March said it had received from Transport Canada “approval and official certification” for four 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters (BCFs).
The company intends to place three of those jets into service “expeditiously”, with the first aircraft set to begin flying on 22 April.
A fourth 737-800BCF remains in the passenger-to-freighter conversion process and will likely enter service “later this year”, WestJet says.
The airline is launching the new cargo operation under a partnership with aviation services company GTA Group, which is based near Toronto. GTA’s subsidiaries provide aviation logistics, cargo, e-commerce, grand-handling and other services.
“Today is a long-awaited milestone… that will now enable us to disrupt the air cargo industry in Canada,” says WestJet executive vice-president of cargo Kirsten de Bruijn. The operation will give shippers a new competitive cargo option and increase air-cargo capacity within the country, she adds.
WestJet in March 2022 disclosed its plan to operate 737-800 freighters under a business arrangement with GTA, saying the aircraft will fly “overnight express cargo services” from Toronto.
“The dedicated freighters will initially focus service within North America, serving Calgary, Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles and Miami,” WestJet says.
“WestJet Cargo’s dedicated freighter routes will further connect to the bellies of WestJet’s fleet, serving to accommodate the diverse needs of cargo customers in leveraging the airline’s expansive network.”
WestJet has not elaborated on the specifics of the GTA partnership.
Its fleet currently includes three stored 737-800BCFs that will be “operated for” GTA, according to Cirium data. Those jets are managed by aircraft lessor and management company BBAM.