WestJet plans to wind down Sunwing Airlines by integrating the low-cost carrier into its core business within two years, as part of a plan to streamline operations.
In an internal memo obtained by The Canadian Press, Sunwing Airlines President Len Corrado says the change will open up growth opportunities for the 18-year-old company, as well as its employees.
“WestJet will eventually transition to an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) model and Sunwing Airlines will be integrated into WestJet. This is a long-term decision that will unlock greater scale and growth opportunities for our employees, and specifically for our airline employees within the group,” Mr. Corrado said in the memo. service dated Wednesday.
“While the exact timelines are still being finalized, the integration is expected to take up to a few years,” the document also reads.
The move comes just a week after WestJet opted to also consolidate the operations of low-cost subsidiary Swoop under its flagship banner. Both moves amplify the major consolidation in the Canadian aviation market that followed WestJet’s acquisition of Sunwing’s core airline and vacation divisions last month.
“The WestJet Group remains committed to developing sun flights in the East, alongside expansion plans in Western Canada, and this strategy will only grow stronger as we eventually move to a one-to-one CTA. single jet,” wrote Len Corrado.
WestJet has confirmed its intention to integrate Sunwing Airlines, but reports that its “current priority” remains the merger of Swoop into the company’s business.
Sunwing Vacations will continue to operate under its own banner, WestJet spokeswoman Julia Kaiser said in an email, hinting that WestJet planes may fly Sunwing vacation package customers to their destinations.
Sunwing did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
WestJet’s move could narrow traveler choice, observers fear.
“Consumers will once again be the big losers,” said John Gradek, coordinator of McGill University’s aviation management program. It is not good news. »
He mentioned that the route between Toronto and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is currently served by the three airlines: WestJet, Swoop and Sunwing.
“WestJet will not fly three aircraft from Toronto to Puerto Vallarta within an hour of each other. It’s not going to happen,” says Gradek.
He predicts that other vacation destinations in Mexico, the United States and the Caribbean will likely be underserved.
WestJet announced on June 9 that it would merge Swoop with its main business by the end of October, as the country’s second-largest airline recalibrates in a fiercely competitive market.
The change came five years after Swoop first appeared, in response to the launch of Flair Airlines, its cut-price rival, in 2017.
It comes after WestJet and Swoop pilots ratified a new collective agreement that puts them on a level wage scale, giving them a 24% pay rise over four years.
In an interview last week, WestJet chairman and chief executive Alexis von Hoensbroech said he was considering keeping Swoop separate but concluded that higher wages for his flight crews made the option less feasible.
In March, the federal government approved WestJet’s takeover of Sunwing Vacations and Sunwing Airlines, despite a warning from the Competition Bureau that the purchase would likely lead to higher prices and lower services, particularly in regarding packages.
In signing the deal, Ottawa added terms that include expanding Sunwing’s packages to five new cities, maintaining capacity on the hardest-hit routes, and maintaining a vacation business headquarters. in Toronto as well as a regional headquarters in Montreal for at least five years.
The deal added some 2,000 employees and 18 Boeing 737s to WestJet’s fleet of 130 planes, made up entirely of Boeing planes, according to the Federal Aircraft Register. This includes planes from Swoop, but not those from regional service WestJet Encore.