Wow: WestJet Places Order For Up To 20 Boeing 787s

This is turning out to be a very interesting year for Canada’s second largest airline, WestJet. Just a couple of weeks ago they announced their intentions to launch an ultra low cost carrier later this year, and now there’s more.

WestJet is a Canadian low cost carrier that can probably be most closely compared to Southwest in the US. They have a fleet of over 100 Boeing 737 aircraft, and for years their business model revolved exclusively around flying within North America.

A few years ago they took delivery of four Boeing 767 aircraft, which they use for flights to London Gatwick and Hawaii. It has been interesting to see their longhaul expansion, given that it’s quite a departure from their original all 737 fleet.

westjet-767

WestJet has now announced that they’re taking their longhaul expansion to the next level. WestJet has just placed an order for up to 20 Boeing 787 aircraft:

  • WestJet has placed a firm order for 10 Boeing 787-9 aircraft, to be delivered between the first quarter of 2019 and the end of 2021
  • WestJet has options for an additional 10 Boeing 787-9 aircraft, to be delivered between 2020 and 2024

WestJet-WestJet to purchase Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners

This order may partly come at the expense of some 737 MAX aircraft, as WestJet has 65 of those planes on order. As part of this, they’re converting 15 firm 737 MAX orders into options. Here’s what WestJet’s CEO had to say about the 787 order:

“This order represents an exciting new chapter in WestJet’s history,” said Gregg Saretsky, WestJet President and CEO. “We have carefully executed on our strategic plan, first launching WestJet Encore to connect smaller communities across Canada to our growing network followed by our successful venture into wide-body flying to Hawaii and London Gatwick. Now, with the most sophisticated commercial airliner available, we turn our attention to further growing our international presence and introducing even more travellers to our award-winning guest experience.”

The Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is a state-of-the-art aircraft that is 20 per cent more fuel efficient than the Boeing 767 aircraft. With a range of more than 14,000 kilometres, the Dreamliner will give WestJet the ability to serve new destinations in Asia and South America, and to expand its service offerings into the European market.

As you can see, they specifically mention the possibility of expanding to Asia, South America, and further points in Europe.

This is a huge investment (and also gamble) for WestJet. It’s one thing to take delivery of some old 767s that probably aren’t that expensive, but to order up to 20 brand new 787s is a much riskier decision. With this move they’ll be able to achieve a lower operating cost per seat than they can with a 767, though the plane is also significantly more expensive.

I suspect WestJet’s 787s will feature economy and premium economy, though I doubt they’ll deviate from their current business model and introduce business class. WestJet’s 767s have a total of 262 seats, including 238 economy seats, and 24 premium economy seats. I imagine they’ll be able to get at least 100 more seats on their 787-9s.

Congrats to WestJet on this bold decision. I’ll be very curious to see how they configure these 787s, and also what routes they operate them on.

Are you surprised to see WestJet order 787s?

Comments

  1. They are not bad – I took them from YYZ to LGW. I like their premium economy as well – it is priced at $200 for a same day upgrade which is good value for what it is. Their staff are generally quite nice and less stuffy and unioney than AC.

  2. Between news of WestJet’s order and Alitalia going bankrupt, it’s been a good day.

    Happy to see WestJet being aggressive and taking on Air Canada: reminds me the Virgin Australia story. I’d imagine they’re eyeing SkyTeam membership as well.

  3. They have codeshare with Air France witch makes Flying Blue points in to my account

  4. Not sure how they are low cost. They now operate a diverse fleet (737, 767, and Q400), and the wage gap is narrowing with Air Canada. They are not less expensive to fly than Air Canada… with the exception of no business class and limited lounge availability, it looks more and more like a regular airline

  5. it’s not really THAT risky if you think about it – (1) the 789 has huge demands in the market, so worst case they can always lease it out, and (2) they can always use them on east-west trunks like YVR-YYZ and YYC-YYZ or even transborder like YYZ-LAX if long-haul didn’t pan out exactly the way they wanted.

    10 firm orders isn’t that many. The question is merely how they would stake out their position between AirCanada above and AirTransat below.

  6. Westjet learned the hard way that penny wise older Qantas 767 was pound foolish with the expensive technical problems they’ve had. A teachable experience.

    But finally, as a Canadian, the extortionate Air Canada will feel the pain!!!!

  7. They code-share with AA too so I fly from Calgary to Charlotte a lot through Toronto, they are always the cheapest and I get 100% base miles credit to AA. Doesn’t count toward elite status but I’ll take the 100% miles.

    Nice to see someone challenge Air Canada in Canada, I have to admit Air Canada’s planes have more legroom in economy vs Westjet so it can be rough flying Westjet depending on what seat you get, since I’m 6’3”.

  8. don’t wanna sound like i’m pouring cold water, but AC+WS has been engaged in (legal) duopoly pricing for years. Particularly for the domestic market, there’s practically zero need to drag each other into fare wars that would only trash yields without winning market share.

    If you’re Canadian looking for long-haul price relief, it would be the Chinese carriers flooding every mainland Chinese airport to YVR (once that’s saturated it’ll spread to YYZ and YYC), and the transatlantic LCCs/ULCCs, starting with WOW Air.

  9. Ben, why do you keep calling WestJet a low cost airline? It is not! It began as a low cost airline, but evolved from that model a long time ago, and now WestJet is just a regular airline. There is noting low cost about it.

  10. This is great news! I’m so excited to see their new routes with this aircraft. Even though I live in YYZ I’ve never flown Air Canada, but my I have flow WestJet to LGW and the service was pretty good!

  11. This will make the LGW services run on time and be nice and modern. I will wait to fly Westjet when they bring those in.

  12. They won’t gain an additional 100 seats over the 767 with a 787. The 787 isn’t that much bigger, more so it’s more efficient and longer range.

  13. @ Brad — WestJet’s 767s have 262 seats. Scoot has 375 seats on their 787-9s, including a premium economy cabin. What makes you think WestJet can’t get 100 extra seats on their 787s?

  14. I will bet this deal is used as a reason to put pressure on Trump to not embargo Canadian timber. Boeing has a strong Lobby maybe stronger than US lumber companies.

  15. @Lucky @Brad And DY have 342 in their 787-9s inc premium cabin, so not without the realms of what Lucky has suggested.

  16. Ben,

    Just watched a CBC interview with Mr. Saretsky (their CEO) where he confirmed that the B787s would have a Business Class cabin with lie-flat seats. Also, they’re expecting delivery in 1Q19.

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