Westjet will boost trans-Atlantic service as it receives new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft later this year, increasing capacity from Toronto and Vancouver to London-Gatwick, but dashing hopes the airline might spread its wings to Asia in the near term.
The airline plans to have six 787s in the fleet by the summer 2020, up from the current three. It has options on another 14 aircraft as it continues its transition to an international carrier.
“As we welcome new 787 deliveries, we continue to showcase WestJet’s award-winning guest experience to the world,” said Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer. “Our Dreamliner service is unique to WestJet and through increased domestic and transatlantic connections we’re able to offer Canadians and visitors a superior experience whether travelling for business or leisure.”
The airline flew summer seasonal Dreamliner service in 2019 from its Calgary hub to London, Paris, and Dublin, but shifted trans-Atlantic Dreamliner service to Toronto for the winter. The Calgary routes return in 2020, while Toronto and Vancouver will see new daily London Dreamliner service through the summer months.
One 787 will be held back in Canada, flying between Calgary and Toronto. It will serve as a backup, in case of problems with an aircraft on the London route.
The move represents a massive boost in capacity from the ageing Boeing 767 aircraft flying between Vancouver and Toronto and London in the summer of 2019. The Dreamliner has nearly 60 more seats than the 767, including lie-flat seats in business class, meaning an extra 400 seats each week on the route.
Rival Air Canada dominates traffic to London, with flights to London-Heathrow from numerous Canadian cities.
Statistics Canada reported more than 814,000 people travelled from the United Kingdom to Canada last year, while some 750,000 Canadians went the other way.
The schedule shows a distinct concentration on London-Gatwick, despite Westjet not having onward connections from the airport. In April, Westjet signed a code-share agreement with Air France to increase connection opportunities through Calgary and Paris.