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WestJet president and CEO Ed Sims came to Canada last year by way of New Zealand and Wales, the latest stop in an aviation and travel career that spans more than three decades.
In all that time, he never came across a relationship as symbiotic and intrinsic as the relationship between WestJet and its home in Calgary and in Alberta, he said.
“WestJet was not simply made in Alberta,” he added in a speech at Calgary International Airport (CYYC) on Oct. 10, 2018.
“We are made of Alberta, and there are not many airlines who have such a close, intrinsic relationship with their hometown and with their home province.”
WestJet announced it is deepening is roots in Calgary by basing its first three Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft at CYYC, offering new direct routes to Dublin, Paris and London (Gatwick) starting next spring.
The Dreamliners will have 320 seats, including a full business cabin with 16 lie-flat beds, as well as 24 premium economy seats featuring two-by-two seating and premium amenities, said Sims.
The aircraft’s General Electric GEnx-1B engines are 15 per cent more fuel efficient and produce 15 per cent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than WestJet’s current Boeing 767 fleet, said Sims.
“It is also the quietest commercial airline that GE has ever produced, further enhancing the onboard experience,” he said.
WestJet plans to operate 14 flights a week from the United Kingdom and Western Europe into Calgary, just shy of 4,500 seats per week or 234,000 seats per year.
If the flights reach an average occupancy of 80 per cent, the airline would bring roughly 185,000 visitors to Calgary each year on the new European routes.
It’s expected the new services to Europe will support 650 full-time jobs in the region, and an additional total economic benefit of around $100 million, said Sims.
WestJet already supports more than 32,000 direct and indirect jobs in the Albertan economy, with a yearly recurring economic output of more than $5 billion, he said.
The airline’s Dreamliner aircraft will feature WestJet’s new livery, as well as the phrase: “The spirit of Canada” in both English and French.
“Our goal is to bring more of Canada to the world and more of the world to Canada,” said Sims.
“To do this, we needed to refresh the look of WestJet and how we speak about our airline.”
He said WestJet’s recent transborder joint venture with Delta Airlines, as well as its WestJet Link regional service and enhancements to its rewards programs have been “like jigsaw pieces in a complex puzzle.
“Today we have the great honour and pleasure of revealing the picture that’s on the jigsaw box,” he said.
WestJet has ordered 10 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, with the first expected to arrive in Calgary early in 2019 and two more arriving by April.
The aircraft will operate on domestic flights for crew training and regulatory compliance before the first scheduled international flight in April.
Tickets to London (Gatwick), Paris and Dublin went on sale on Oct. 10, 2018, with the first flights scheduled for April 28, May 17 and June 1, 2019, respectively.
WestJet has options for an additional 10 Dreamliner aircraft that would arrive between 2020 and 2024.
The Calgary-to-London (Gatwick) route will offer daily return service, while the route to Paris will operate four times weekly and the route to Dublin will operate three times weekly.
“This is our home,” said Sims. “This is our moment. This is our brave new world. Thank you for joining me on every step of the way.”