During the past few years Canada’s second largest airline WestJet has been working to build up its base of corporate customers, and much runway remains for the company to capture a larger share of lucrative business passengers.
During the recent CAPA Canada Aviation Summit, WestJet CEO Ed Sims stated the airline represents approximately 37% of Canada’s domestic market, however, “we are considerably less than that in the corporate market because of the routes we started from. I often talk to corporates and they say, ‘I do my business traffic on your competitor, and I will travel on leisure with you’”.
Unashamedly, Mr Sims declared: “I want a share of wallet as much as I want share of heart”.
The 787 is WestJet’s way of ensuring it has a competitive and high quality product offering to be fed by its established domestic offering. “We had a brilliant strategy, it was to have the widebody  Dreamliner and the equivalent of a narrowbody Dreamliner called the MAX, and it was a brilliant strategy until March 13 ”, Mr Sims explained.
Since Mar-2019 all Boeing 737 MAX jets worldwide have been grounded, and WestJet has 13 737 MAX 8 narrowbodies that remain out of service. WestJet’s MAX 8 Jets feature a dedicated premium section of the cabin.
“We want to get back to operating a consistent premium offering for those corporate road warriors and frankly, to improve our presence and penetration of Eastern Canada to the levels that we’ve been able to manage in the West”, said Mr Sims.
Obviously, Air Canada has no plans to cede any of its advantage among corporate travellers to WestJet. “Why should they?” Mr Sims said. “In fact, we’ve seen them respond in a very different way since we launched the 787.”
Mr Sims also explained that WestJet has been assiduously building up strength in its hubs during the past couple of years and the guests that Air Canada are fighting hardest to retain are the guests that are migrating at the greatest rate to WestJet since it introduced the 787.
Mr Sims outlined more about WestJet’s development in a discussion during the CAPA Canada Aviation Summit. He was joined by other senior colleagues, comprising, Steven Greenway, president of ULCC Swoop, Mike McNaney, VP industry, corporate & airport affairs and Brian Znotins, VP network & alliances.