Clive Beddoe, (Chairman of the Board of Directors, Co-Founder)
WestJet Airlines Ltd. is a Canadian low-cost carrier, that provides scheduled and charter air service to 91 destinations in Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. Founded in 1996, it is currently the second-largest Canadian air carrier, behind Air Canada, operating an average of 425 flights and carrying over 45,000 passengers per day. In 2013, WestJet carried 18.5 million passengers, making it the ninth-largest airline in North America by passengers carried.
WestJet is a public company with more than 10,000 employees, is non-unionized and is not part of any airline alliance. It operates three variants of the Boeing 737 Next Generation family, and has announced plans to acquire four Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. Its subsidiary WestJet Encore also operates the Bombardier Q400. The airline's headquarters is located adjacent to the Calgary International Airport,.
WestJet had passenger revenues of $3.4 billion (CAD) in 2012 and reported annual 2012 earnings of C$1.78 per share, a year-over-year increase of 68% compared with 2011 EPS.
Founded by Clive Beddoe, David Neeleman, Mark Hill, Tim Morgan and Donald Bell, WestJet was based on the low-cost carrier business model pioneered by Southwest Airlines and Morris Air in the United States. Its original routes were all located in Western Canada, which gave the airline its name.
On February 19, 1996, the first WestJet flight (a Boeing 737-200) departed. Initially, the airline served Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Vancouver and Winnipeg with a fleet of three used Boeing 737-200 aircraft and 225 employees. By the end of that same year, the company had added Regina, Saskatoon and Victoria to its network.
In mid-September 1996, WestJet's fleet was grounded due to a disagreement with Transport Canada over maintenance schedule requirements. The airline suspended all service for 2 weeks before resuming flights.
In early 1999, Clive Beddoe stepped down as WestJet's CEO and was replaced by former Air Ontario executive Steve Smith. In July 1999, WestJet made its initial public offering of stock at 2.5 million shares, opening at $10 per share. The same year, the cities of Thunder Bay, Grande Prairie, and Prince George were added to WestJet's route map.
In 2000, WestJet CEO Steve Smith was released from WestJet after 18 months in the position, apparently due to differences about management style; Smith went on to head rival Air Canada's low-cost subsidiary Zip. After Smith's departure, Clive Beddoe again became CEO of the company, a position he held until July 2007.
Early 2000s: Domestic expansion
WestJet Airlines at Calgary International Airport
Due to restructuring in the Canadian airline industry resulting from Air Canada's takeover of Canadian Airlines in 2000, WestJet expanded into Eastern Canada, beginning service to the cities of Hamilton, Ottawa, Ontario and Moncton, New Brunswick. The airline selected John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport to be the focus of its Eastern Canadian operations and its main connection point in Eastern Canada.
In 2001, WestJet's expansion continued with routes to Fort McMurray and Comox. It also added Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Ontario, Thompson and Brandon, Manitoba, but service to each of these four cities has now been withdrawn.
In 2002, the airline also added another two new Eastern Canadian destinations: the Ontario cities of London and Toronto. In April 2003, WestJet added Windsor, Montreal, Halifax, St. John's and Gander.
WestJet entered into a two-year agreement with Air Transat in August 2003 whereby WestJet aircraft would be filled by Transat's two main tour operators, World of Vacations and Air Transat Holidays. These chartered flights operated largely to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean and the planes were operated by WestJet crews. This agreement between WestJet and Air Transat was amicably terminated in February, 2009.
In 2004, rival airline Air Canada accused WestJet of industrial espionage and filed a civil suit against WestJet in Ontario Superior Court. Air Canada accused WestJet of accessing Air Canada confidential information via a private website in order to gain a business advantage. On May 29, 2006 WestJet admitted to the charges leveled by Air Canada and agreed to pay C$5.5 million in legal and investigation fees to Air Canada and donate C$10 million to various children's charities in the names of Air Canada and WestJet.
Mid 2000s: International expansion
In January 2004, WestJet announced that it was moving the focus of its Eastern operations from Hamilton to Toronto the following April, fully moving into the lucrative Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle and tripling the total number of its flights out of Toronto Pearson International Airport.
In 2004, a number of U.S. destinations were added or announced. These included San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
In early 2005, Palm Springs and San Diego were added to the company's list of destinations, while New York-LaGuardia was dropped. In April 2005, they announced new seasonal service to Charlottetown and ceased service to Gander. In fall 2005, Ft. Myers and Las Vegas were added to the growing list of destinations.
In late August 2005, WestJet flew to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, transporting members of a Vancouver-based urban search and rescue team to assist with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.
After rumours and speculation surrounding the implementation of extended-range twin-engine operations (ETOPS), WestJet announced new service to the Hawaiian Islands from Vancouver on September 20, 2005. In December 2005, the airline began flying from Vancouver to Honolulu and Maui.
WestJet's first scheduled service outside Canada and the United States began in 2006, to Nassau, Bahamas. This was considered a huge milestone within the company's long-term destination strategy and was a vital goal for future international market presence.
In September 2006, Sean Durfy took over as President of WestJet from founder Clive Beddoe.
On October 26, 2006, WestJet announced that it had its best quarterly profit to date, of C$52.8 million.
Late 2000s: Continued growth
WestJet's head office building at Calgary International Airport
In 2007, WestJet announced that they would begin flights from Deer Lake Regional Airport in Newfoundland, Saint John in New Brunswick and Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario. In June 2007, WestJet added seven new international seasonal flights to Saint Lucia, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico as well as a third Hawaiian destination; Kona.
The same year, WestJet commissioned the construction of a new six-storey head office building, next to their existing hangar facility at the Calgary International Airport. The building was constructed following the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, featuring a rainwater retention system and geothermal heating. The first employees moved in during the first quarter of 2009, and the building officially opened the following May. The WestJet Campus building was certified as LEED Gold standard in October 2011.
In May 2008, WestJet launched daily non-stop service to Quebec City. The next month, WestJet commenced seasonal service between Calgary and New York City via Newark Liberty International Airport. In May 2009, the airline launched new seasonal service to the cities of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and Sydney, Nova Scotia; service to Yellowknife was later extended through the winter of 2009-10.
A WestJet Boeing 737-800 landing in Vancouver
During the 2000s, WestJet made significant gains in domestic market share against Air Canada. In 2000 it held only 7% to Air Canada's 77%, though by the end of 2009 WestJet had risen to 38%, against Air Canada's 55%.
In late April 2009, WestJet temporarily suspended service to several of its destinations in Mexico due to the outbreak of influenza A (H1N1) in the country. The suspension of service to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta lasted from early May until mid-June, with seasonal service to Cancún being restored the following fall.
In July 2009, WestJet announced 11 new international destinations for its winter schedule. These included expanded service to the United States, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, Lihue (Kauai), Hawaii and Miami, Florida. New Caribbean destinations included Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands; St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles; Freeport, Bahamas; as well as the cities of Varadero, Holguín and Cayo Coco in Cuba. Ixtapa and Cozumel were also added to the list of destinations served in Mexico.
In November 2009, WestJet announced service to the British island territory of Bermuda, which commenced in May 2010. WestJet also resumed seasonal service to Windsor, Ontario that same month.
Early 2010s to Present
In March 2010, Sean Durfy resigned from his position as WestJet's CEO, citing personal reasons. He was replaced by Gregg Saretsky, a former executive at Canadian Airlines and Alaska Airlines and previously Vice-President of WestJet Vacations and Executive Vice-President of Operations.
In July 2010 WestJet announced service to Santa Clara, Cuba, New Orleans and Grand Cayman bringing the total number of destinations to 71. Service to New Orleans lasted only one season and did not return the next year.
In late 2010 WestJet announced it was wet leasing a Boeing 757 aircraft to expand service between Calgary to Honolulu and Maui and Edmonton to Maui, on a seasonal basis.
Also that year, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), an independent administrative tribunal of the Government of Canada that regulates airlines, found WestJet's baggage policies to be unreasonable and/or contrary to the requirements of the Canada Transportation Act and/or the Air Transport Regulations on several different occasions.
On January 26, 2011, after Air Canada terminated California service, WestJet announced plans to enter service to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California from Vancouver and Calgary starting May of the year.
In November 2011 WestJet won an auction for time slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport ushering in a return to service to New York. Details of WestJet's scheduled service to LaGuardia were officially announced in January 2012. From 2012 to 2014, WestJet further expanded into the United States by adding Chicago via O'Hare International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Myrtle Beach International Airport, and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
On November 15, 2013, WestJet announced their first destination in Europe. Seasonal service from St. John's, Newfoundland to Dublin, Ireland, will operate from June to October 2014.
In January 2014, WestJet chartered an Atlas Air Boeing 747-400 to transport stranded passengers and luggage during the 2013 Central and Eastern Canada ice storm. The charter flew from Lester B. Pearson International Airport to Calgary International Airport.
On July 7, 2014, WestJet announced that they are in the "advanced stages of sourcing" four wide-body aircraft that would begin flying by the fall of 2015. These will initially serve on the seasonal Alberta-Hawaii routes when WestJet's service agreement with Thomas Cook Airlines—who currently fly these routes on behalf of WestJet—expires in the spring of 2015. WestJet will take delivery of 4 Boeing 767-300ER's in summer 2015