Airports across the Americas are spending the weekend putting the final touches on their pitches to airlines for new routes at the Routes Americas conference which begins Tuesday in Quebec City. It’s the largest route development conference on the continent, and will be held in Canada for the first time.
One airline that won’t be looking to hook up with much enthusiasm this year will be Westjet. The airline released its 2018 financial results, which came in “well below where we could, and should, perform,” according to President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Sims.
To remedy the situation, Westjet is redeploying capacity to more profitable routes, and limiting domestic growth to its ultra low-cost affiliate, Swoop.
At the same time, Westjet is going decidedly upmarket on its new Boeing 787 service from Calgary to Europe. The first new plane joined the fleet last month, and there will be three by the summer. Still smarting from a clunky introduction of the Boeing 767 to the fleet in 2016, executives vow not to repeat the mistakes of the past.
Bombardier announced type certification this week for the CRJ 550 regional jet. It’s based on what is usually a CRJ 700, but with only 50 seats, including a business class section. Bombardier is marketing the plane as a replacement for its ageing CRJ 200 of which more than 700 were delivered to airlines around the world.
Bombardier has sold 346 CRJ 700s, with a backlog of only one aircraft as of September 2018.
United is the launch customer and plans to offer flights later this year from Chicago and New York. United hopes to eventually replace all of its 50-seat aircraft with the CRJ 550. That would allow the airline to retire its older CRJ 200 aircraft, but not run afoul of pilot union rules that allow greater flexibility for aircraft with fewer than 50 seats.