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'No screaming good' deals on WestJet's first 787 flights: CFO

Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet is taking a somewhat novel tack in how it prices seats on soon-to-launch Boeing 787-9 flights.

Instead of slashing prices to generate demand, the carrier is selling seats at market rates, therefore avoiding having to hike fares later.

"We have approached it a little differently than we have approached new markets in the past," says chief executive Harry Taylor on 24 January. "We are not going in with screaming good deals."

"If you want to fly with us in business class you are going to pay what you would normally pay for a business class seat, not a 25 or 30% reduction."

WestJet is selling round trip, business-class seats for roughly $4,500, according to its website.

The move differs from WestJet's typical strategy and that of other carriers such as JetBlue Airways, which shook up the US transcontinental market by introducing lie-flat seats in 2014.

JetBlue started selling tickets on those flights in 2013 at fares half as much as competitors were charging for lie-flat transcontinental seats.

But WestJet executives say the strategy is working, noting that yields on early bookings of 787 transcontinental flights are higher than yields on the same routes served last year by Boeing 767s.

Unlike 767s, WestJet's 787s will have 16 lie-flat seats in business class, plus 28 premium economy seats and a mix of regular coach and extra-legroom coach seats, the airline says.

"We are very happy with the bookings we are seeking right now," says WestJet vice-president of network planning and alliances Brian Znotins. "We are particularly pleased with the performance of the premium cabin."

WestJet took delivery of its first 787-9 earlier this month and has orders for another nine of the aircraft.

The carrier plans to deploy 787s from Calgary to London starting 28 April, from Calgary to Paris on 17 May and from Calgary to Dublin on 1 June, it has said.

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