WestJet employees line up to see the new B767-300ER in Calgary.
Early on Aug. 27, 2015, the first of four WestJet B767-300ER aircraft landed in Calgary. Members of the media, along with 1,500 WestJet employees, had the opportunity to walk through the aircraft later that day.
“I can’t believe how big it is,” was the most common comment from employees. In fact, the aircraft is too big for WestJet’s largest hangar bay.
The new jet will service long-range routes to Hawaii, Europe, and the Caribbean.
With a radically new and enhanced cabin, featuring a new teal and blue maple leaf logo and colour scheme, the new jet will service WestJet’s long-range routes to Hawaii, Europe and the Caribbean. Three more B767s will arrive separately over the next eight months.
The cabin is divided into three sections, with 24 premium two-by-two seats up front. The centre and aft sections are equipped with 238 new-style seats in a two-three-two configuration. By spring 2016, all four B767s will be equipped with WestJet Connect, the carrier’s new in-flight entertainment and Wi-Fi system. This 767 will commence a Calgary-to-Toronto route starting in mid-September, allowing cabin crew to become familiar with the aircraft and to fulfil certification requirements for extended operations (ETOPS). Toronto-to-Montego Bay and Calgary-to-Hawaii will be the first long-haul routes for the new jet, followed by direct flights to Gatwick by next summer.
The 767 has large cargo holds suitable for baggage and freight containers.
“We are very happy to finally get these aircraft,” WestJet president and CEO, Gregg Saretsky, told Skies. “It has involved a lot of planning and hard work. Direct flights to our new destination of Gatwick, England, will provide our guests with more options to travel to Europe and beyond. Low-cost carrier Easy Jet has many destinations from Gatwick to Europe, Africa and the Middle East. When you book to Gatwick, you will be given an opportunity to connect to Easy Jet and fly to another destination.” There is no code share between the two companies, but according to Saretsky, passenger and baggage transfers in Gatwick are very simple.
An air freight business opportunity is also emerging with the wide-body. The 767 has very large cargo holds suitable for baggage and freight containers. “We have our air freight team working on various opportunities for cargo,” Saretsky continued.
Cabin manager Christine Dzaack in the aircraft’s front galley.
The four leased B767s are 20 years old, and are expected to serve as a stop-gap until WestJet decides on the purchase of a new generation airliner. Although the Calgary-based carrier launched its business with Boeing aircraft, there is no guarantee that the next big jet purchase will be from that family. “We have talked to Boeing about the B787,” said Saretsky. “But we have also listened to what Airbus had to offer with their new A350 WXB.”
Nineteen years ago, WestJet started out with a fleet of four B737-200s and a small cadre of employees, flying under the radar of many existing airlines as they built their business.
The 767 is too big for WestJet’s largest hangar bay.
On Aug. 27, the carrier made a monumental leap into the big-iron airline world. It’s doubtful that anyone is ignoring them now.