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WestJet confirms it will start Vancouver to China flights

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Kenneth Chan Jun 02, 2017 1:20 am 7,096

WestJet has plans to become a major player in the Asia-Pacific in its evolving strategy of becoming a traditional global airline.

During a speech at the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade on Thursday, WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said Vancouver International Airport will be key for its expansion plans.

The airline has applied to Transport Canada for designation to serve destinations in China, but the routes and the dates for when the new routes will start is not known as the federal government still needs to negotiate with Chinese aviation authorities in Beijing.

Such an expansion to the Chinese market aligns with the federal government’s goal of doubling the number of inbound arrivals from China to Canada by 2022.

“We’re looking at east, west, and south from YVR,” said Saretsky. “We’re entering into the century of the Asia Pacific region.”

He added that WestJet is also exploring non-stop routes to South America, perhaps even bringing back routes to Lima, Santiago, and Buenos Aires.

WestJet currently operates 76 non-stop routes from YVR. It launched its first routes to Europe last fall, with six-times weekly flights to London Gatwick Airport. At the end of this month, it will commence new direct routes to London and Hamilton in Ontario and Halifax, Nova Scotia, which will be YVR’s only non-stop service to the Maritimes’ largest city.

Last month, the airline finalized an order for 10 Boeing 787-9 aircraft to be delivered between 2019 and 2021, with options for an additional 10 aircraft between 2020 and 2024. The deal is valued at $5.4 billion.

New low-cost airline to be named by employees

In April, WestJet announced its plans to start a new ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC) by the end of 2017 using a fleet of 10 high-density Boeing 737-800s repurposed from the existing airline, which will use newly-ordered Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.

Saretsky said the ULCC will be named by WestJet employees, and the chosen name will be made public sometime over the coming weeks. Over 900 suggestions have been submitted to date.

Unlike Air Canada Rouge, WestJet’s ULCC will carry an entirely different branding, meaning new aircraft livery, employee uniforms, marketing, and website.

The ‘classic’ WestJet service will steadily grow into becoming a more traditional airline while the low-cost value model will be shifted to the new carrier to differentiate the experiences of the two airlines.

“We started as low-cost to bring low fares,” he continued. “But as airlines age, cost structures grow and it becomes a bit more difficult to play in that space. So we’re going to start all over with a brand new airline.”

He admitted that seats will be tight and passengers will need to pay for both checked and carry-on bags to ensure fares are low.

“It’s not for everybody, we’ll tell you for a fact,” said Saretsky. “You will pay for anything you consume along the way.”

The ULCC’s routes will be announced at the end of this year following approval from Transport Canada.

New and improved major YVR routes 2016/2017

  • January 1, 2016: Orlando International Airport – WestJet to begin twice weekly non-stop seasonal flight service.
  • January 20, 2016: Orlando-Sanford International Airport – National Airlines to begin two times weekly seasonal flight service.
  • February 15, 2016: Cancun, Mexico – Air Canada to begin weekly, non-stop seasonal service.
  • May 1, 2016: London Heathrow Airport – British Airways to use an AirBus A380 superjumbo jet for its existing daily non-stop London Heathrow Airport service. The A380 will only be used during the summer months.
  • May 6, 2016: London Gatwick Airport – WestJet to begin six times weekly non-stop flight service.
  • May 9, 2016: Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport – Air Canada to begin twice daily, non-stop service to San Jose.
  • June 1, 2016: Brisbane, Australia – Air Canada to begin daily non-stop flight service.
  • June 2, 2016: San Diego International Airport – Air Canada to begin daily, non-stop seasonal service.
  • June 4, 2016: Chicago O’Hare International Airport – Air Canada to begin daily, non-stop service.
  • June 10, 2016: Dublin Airport – Air Canada to begin seasonal, three times weekly non-stop flight service.
  • June 29, 2016: London, Ontario – WestJet to begin four times weekly non-stop seasonal flight service.
  • June 29, 2016: Halifax, Nova Scotia – WestJet to begin four times weekly non-stop seasonal flight service.
  • June 30, 2016: Hamilton, Ontario – WestJet to begin three times weekly non-stop seasonal flight service.
  • July 25, 2016: Xiamen, China – Xiamen Airlines to begin three times weekly non-stop flight service.
  • October 20, 2016: Delhi, India – Air Canada to begin three times weekly non-stop flight service.
  • December 1, 2016: Mexico City, Mexico – Aeromexico increases weekly flights from 14 to 20.
  • December 20, 2016: Nanjing, China – China Eastern Airlines to begin three times weekly non-stop flight service.
  • December 30, 2016: Hangzhou, China via Qingdao, China – Beijing Capital Airlines to begin three times weekly service.
  • February 5, 2017: Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas – Air Canada to begin daily service.
  • March 28, 2017: Hong Kong, China – Cathay Pacific increases weekly flights from 14 to 17.
  • May 1, 2017: Phoenix, Arizona – Air Canada to begin daily service.
  • May 18, 2017: Denver, Colorado – Air Canada to begin twice daily service.
  • June 1, 2017: Nagoya, Japan – Air Canada to begin seasonal three times weekly service.
  • June 1, 2017: Frankfurt, Germany – Air Canada to begin daily service.
  • June 8, 2017: Taipei, Taiwan – Air Canada to begin daily service.
  • June 8, 2017: London, UK (Gatwick Airport) – Air Canada to begin three times weekly service.
  • June 23, 2017: Boston, Massachusetts – Air Canada to begin daily summer seasonal service.
  • June 30, 2017: Hong Kong, China – Hong Kong Airlines to begin daily non-stop flight service.
  • December 1, 2017: Melbourne, Australia – Air Canada to begin four times weekly non-stop seasonal service.
  • December 19, 2017: Montego Bay, Jamaica – Sunwing Airlines to begin weekly seasonal service.
  • December 20, 2017: Orlando International Airport – Air Canada to begin twice weekly non-stop seasonal service.
  • January 1, 2018: Reykjavík, Iceland – Icelandair to upgrade existing seasonal service to three times weekly year-round service.
See also

 


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Kenneth Chan
National Features Editor at Daily Hive, the evolution of Vancity Buzz. He covers local architecture, urban issues, politics, business, retail, economic development, transportation and infrastructure, and the travel industry. Kenneth is also a Co-Founder of New Year's Eve Vancouver. Connect with him at kenneth[at]dailyhive.com

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