WestJet appears poised to build up further long-haul routes after the Canadian budget carrier starts Boeing 737 flights to Dublin in June.

The airline has been evaluating a move into long-haul operations with widebody aircraft for several years, but is now closer to making such a decision than in the past, said John Weatherill, director for network and schedule planning, at the Routes Europe summit in Marseille on 6 April. This is the main reason why the airline came to the event in the French port city, he adds.

On 15 June, WestJet will launch daily return flights from St John’s in Newfoundland to the Irish capital, using 737-700s. The services will be conducted for the summer season until 5 October.

The potential move into long-haul operations with widebodies was partly driven by Canada’s long winter periods, as passengers travel to regions with milder climates, says Weatherill.

WestJet is operating flights from Calgary and Edmonton to Hawaii with leased 757s from Thomas Cook. But Weatherill says the airline wants to find a “better solution” with longer-range aircraft to provide more route flexibility to, for example, serve Hawaii from more easterly cities.

It could follow Air Transat’s widebody operation, as the fellow Canadian carrier has a cost base similar to WestJet’s, says Weatherill.

He adds, however, that the airline would have to adapt its operations, as the low-cost model would “run into its limits” on long-haul routes.

Another challenge is that legacy airlines, such as Air Canada, are reducing their costs and thus exercise competitive pressure “from above” in the narrowbody arena as well, he says.

Source: Cirium Dashboard