25 APR 2019: Agents across Canada continue to meet the “new WestJet” as the airline rolls across the country at a series of close to 20 events for the trade, including five primary shows and over a dozen more intimate events, culminating May 2 in Calgary.

The theme of the shows is “Love where you’re going” – an allusion to WestJet’s transformation into a global airline. But more to the point, the road show is designed to announce: “We’re here!” airline director of agency sales Jane Clementino told Travel Industry Today at the Toronto event at the International Centre, attended by several hundred agents.

Agents had a chance to meet many WestJet suppliers on the tradeshow floor, but also to take in a presentation themed around “the three E’s”: Expand, Enhance and Evolve.

Collectively, the E’s describe the airline’s positioning as “being a challenger and looking at the international market as a place to play,” Clementino said, adding, “Agents are used to the old WestJet, (but) we don’t try to position ourselves as a low-cost carrier anymore.”

To wit, WestJet has new airline partners (Delta, Air France, KLM); routes (to Portland, Atlanta and Austin from Western Canada, and Dublin, Paris and Gatwick set to start from Calgary); aircraft (787 Dreamliners) arriving this month and later in the year; fare family and enhanced loyalty program; and plans to launch more Europe and possibly Asia in 2020. And, of course, its low-cost carrier Swoop is set to celebrate its first anniversary in June with current load factors over 90 percent.

Cabin service enhancements across the fleet also reflect the airline’s philosophy of “looking at the journey differently,” through customer service enhancements in seats, food and décor – moves that will help WestJet in its mission to attract more high-revenue business travellers and “buck list achievers.”

As for 2019, the agency sales chief is on track for much better results than its much ballyhooed “difficult year” in 2018. Despite the necessary grounding of its Boeing Max 8 aircraft after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines jet and some “softness” in the transborder market, Clementino says the airline is “fare-ing up” with average prices increasing about five percent, premium sales are up, and Europe is looking strong for the summer. WestJet Vacations is also up about 15 percent year over year (though average prices are down marginally).

Overall, Clementino likens the airline’s evolution to growing out of the teenage years into adulthood. “We’ve been telling people for years about the evolution of the airline,” she says. “The cool thing is, we’re finally here!”

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Michael Baginski

Editor, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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