Canadian airline company WestJet Group faces a delay of at least six months in completing its integration of Sunwing Airlines’ small fleet of Boeing 737s.

Calgary-based WestJet now hopes to complete the integration in April 2025 instead of October 2024, as previously planned, WestJet interim director of route planning Rick Jones said at the Airport Council International-North America’s JumpStart conference in Washington, DC on 20 May. The new timing is when WestJet aims to have finished shifting 11 Sunwing 737s onto its own air operator’s certificate (AOC). 

The delay stems from training Sunwing’s pilots and changing measurement units used in the cockpits of the discounter’s 737s, Jones says. 

Sunwing_Hi Res Boeing

Source: Boeing

Sunwing’s fleet includes Boeing 737 Max 8s

WestJet, which is privately held and does not disclose financial data, purchased Sunwing in May 2023. The deal faced tough regulatory scrutiny amid concern it would negatively impact consumers.

As part of the acquisition, WestJet also integrated its wholly-owned budget brand, Swoop, onto its AOC. That integration was completed in October 2023.

The Canadian airline market is one in flux.

In addition to WestJet’s acquisition of Sunwing, Calgary-based discounter Lynx Air closed its doors in February, citing financial pressures. Meanwhile, Porter Airlines has embarked on North American expansion from Toronto and other eastern Canadian cities since introducing Embraer 195-E2s in February 2023. The airline plans to grow its available seat kilometres 6-8% this year compared to 2023.

WestJet 737-700

Source: Heather Dunbar_Shutterstock

Additionally, Porter has formed a joint venture with Air Transat, a player specialising in flights to Europe and the Caribbean. The agreement involves the airlines intertwining flight schedules and routes.

WestJet’s expansion has been focused on destinations in Western Canada and involves the airline targeting customers travelling for leisure, hence the acquisition of Sunwing, which specialists in leisure travel, Jones says.

WestJet adopted that strategy in 2022 under the then-new leadership of chief executive Alexis von Hoensbroech.

WestJet aims to serve more than 100 cities from its Calgary hub as part of its pivot to Western Canada, Jones says. The airline currently flies to 76 destinations from the Alberta city, Cirium schedules show.

WestJet’s growth, however, will be slow this year owing to delayed delivery by Boeing of 737 Max. WestJet had been scheduled to receive eight of those jets this year but now expects to receive only two.