Dreamliner departure ushers in new era for Westjet

WestJet Dreamliner launches first revenue flight (CNW Group/WESTJET, an Alberta Partnership)

It was a simple departure Wednesday morning for Westjet when flight 655 departed Toronto for Calgary, but it launched a new era of global competition for the airline.

Westjet operated its first Dreamliner revenue flight, which it hopes will propel the Calgary-based carrier to new heights.

“Today’s first revenue flight on the Dreamliner has been years in the making,” said Arved von zur Muehlen, WestJet Chief Commercial Officer in a news release. “There are big things in store for tail 901 as it is the first 787 that will take WestJet global.”

The aircraft will fly the Toronto-Cagary route until April, allowing crews to get familiar with the layout and tools, then will operate signature service from Calgary to London-Gatwick.

Another Boeing 787 has already been delivered, and a third is due from the factory in March. All three will be based at its Calgary hub.

The plane comes equipped with the airline’s first lie-flat business class seats, and flight attendants will offer a higher class of service than has been the case until now. Westjet built its reputation as a low-cost airline, but sees its future as a full-service global competitor.

Westjet has concluded a joint venture agreement with Delta Air Lines to increase cooperation, and is preparing talks for a similar deal with Air France-KLM.

Westjet is taking a cautious approach to deploying the new planes. It will operate 14 of 21 possible weekly rotations to London, Paris and Dublin once all three aircraft are in service, keeping one of the three planes flying in Canada as a spare in case of trouble.

The airline was stung by the clunky deployment of its 767 aircraft in 2016, and its image took a beating.

Westjet has ordered seven more 787s, but has not announced where they will be deployed.