After collapsing its route network in favour of Calgary, Westjet adds routes it’s never tried before in a bid to kickstart domestic travel
Canada’s Westjet, a carrier that pioneered a number of point to point routes in Western Canada, has returned to its roots in a summer expansion meant to kick start a post-pandemic recovery.
The airline said Friday it would add 11 routes to western Canadian cities, bypassing its Calgary hub and signalling new optimism that the pandemic may be nearing its end.
“We know our restart agenda will be pivotal to Canada’s economic recovery,” said Westjet chief executive Ed Sims in a statement. “Stimulating air travel benefits all Canadians and supports those hardest hit, with one in every 10 Canadian jobs tied to travel and tourism.”
Westjet’s plans show a strategy heavily tilted towards holiday travel, particularly to tourist hotspots in British Columbia.
Focusing on B.C.
Of 11 new routes, all but one features a destination in B.C. But they all avoid Westjet’s Pacific Coast hub in Vancouver.
Instead, people in Ottawa will be able to fly to Victoria. And Torontonians will have a new non-stop connection to Comox on Vancouver Island.
And residents of the Prairie provinces will have seven new routes into British Columbia. They include Edmonton-Nanaimo – a route Westjet once operated, but abandoned before the pandemic – and Edmonton-Kamloops. Westjet subsidiary Swoop announced plans to serve the route last summer, but dropped the idea when COVID-19 decimated air travel.
With few options for Canadians to travel overseas on the near horizon, Westjet is hoping people will choose to travel domestically.
Westjet’s Western strategy is in addition to a planned return to Atlantic Canada and Quebec City this summer.
“If Canadians were to shift two-thirds of their planned international leisure travel spend towards domestic tourism,” said Sims, “it would help sustain 150,000 jobs and accelerate recovery by one year.”
The new flights are more a toe in the water than a giant leap. They will operate once or twice a week. But it is a sign that Canada’s airlines see hope on the horizon of a return to some form of normal.
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