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Wednesday,  June 12, 2024 12:11 PM 

WestJet CEO wants Ottawa to freeze ticket fees, stop collecting airport rents

  • Air
  •   05-22-2024  3:01 pm
  •   Pax Global Media

WestJet CEO wants Ottawa to freeze ticket fees, stop collecting airport rents
CEO of The WestJet Group Alexis von Hoensbroech. (Pax Global Media/file photo)
Pax Global Media

Tackling issues of affordability and competitiveness, WestJet on Wednesday (May 22) released a set of policy recommendations to the federal government.

Among them? An immediate freeze on mandatory imposed government fees, charges and policies that increase the cost of travel.

The airline also wants a comprehensive review of Canada's user-pay system for aviation infrastructure, which it says “should consider competitiveness impacts, intermodal equity, border leakage and value for taxpayers.”

As well, WestJet is calling for the cessation of the collection of airport rents by the federal government.

"WestJet is committed to maintaining a transparent and low-cost structure that welcomes competition and drives the best value for our guests. Yet we operate in a very expensive and user-paid infrastructure environment that significantly drives up ticket prices for the everyday Canadian and hinders competition," said Alexis von Hoensbroech, CEO of the WestJet Group, in a press release.

"Air travellers are paying too much in government fees and charges on their plane ticket compared to other nations and other modes of travel. These changes would increase competition, lower ticket prices, and foster greater transparency for our guests."

Two years of progress

The demands were released alongside WestJet’s “Soaring Together” progress report, which highlighting the airline's accomplishments across Canada since the launch of its growth strategy nearly two years ago.

The airline notes some of its highlights, including:  

  • In 2023, guests purchased more than 2.5 million tickets below $100 from The WestJet Group.
  • Nearly 50 per cent of all tickets purchased were priced by WestJet under $200.
  • Across the last two years, WestJet has hired more than 5,400 employees and currently employs 15,000 people.
  • WestJet has positioned the YYC Calgary International Airport as its global hub. By the end of 2024, it's expected that The WestJet Group will grow its seat capacity in Calgary by 40 per cent from 2022 levels.

"The WestJet Group continues to drive job creation, investment and economic prosperity through the deployment of our ambitious strategy that has enabled us to expand our network and unlock more affordable travel options for Canadians," said von Hoensbroech.

"From coast-to-coast, communities depend on our reliable and affordable air service. As we build on our success to better serve our guests, we must take action to safeguard affordability."

WestJet says it is the number one carrier in eight of nine major Western Canadian airports, noting that it has surpassed industry standards in on-time departures, arrivals, and completion rates.

In April 2024, WestJet ranked second in on-time performance against all major North American carriers.

The brand also recently announced enhancements to its winter schedule, adding flights to Tulum, Mexico (from Calgary and Toronto) and Grenada in the Caribbean. Additionally, WestJet will boost its transborder offerings with new flights to Fort Lauderdale, FL., from Vancouver and Winnipeg. And, this winter, WestJet will add once-weekly service from Kelowna to Mazatlán and Winnipeg to Los Cabos.

Last year, WestJet completed its major acquisition of Sunwing Airlines and Sunwing Vacations, bolstering scale and market presence to bring more vacation offerings to Canadians.

Currently, one in two vacation packages sold in Canada will be sold through the various brands that make up Sunwing Vacations Group, WestJet says.

WestJet says that since it was founded in 1996, ticket prices in Canada – despite Canada's high cost and uncompetitive regulatory environment – have dropped by more than half in real terms “as a direct result of WestJet's entry and ongoing competition in the market.”

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