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Sunday,  May 26, 2024 10:29 PM 

WestJet relaunches agent booking channel in phases, with restrictions

WestJet relaunches agent booking channel in phases, with restrictions
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

WestJet has relaunched its booking channel for the trade, but with some restrictions as the airline takes a phased approach to activating the new online tool, PAX has learned.

On April 29, WestJet released the first phase of “WestJet Agent Direct,” notifying select agents and agencies of the platform by email, with an invitation to enroll.

As PAX reported last year, WestJet decommissioned its original WestJet Agent system last October – a “difficult decision" that sparked criticism in trade circles.

At the time, WestJet’s Director of Sales, Amanda Ierfino, said the platform was being retired “due to technical reasons” and that it was always WestJet’s plan to implement an alternate booking option for its trade partners.

How Ierfino left it was that a new tool would be in place by Q1 of 2024.

Phase One restrictions

PAX followed up with WestJet on Wednesday (May 8) to get some sense of the strategy.

For Phase One, “only past users of the original booking platform, WestJet Agent, are able to access WestJet Agent Direct,” Julia Brunet, a public relations coordinator at WestJet, told PAX in an email. “We are actively working toward providing new users access to the platform, which will be phase two of the launch. 

It isn’t clear as to when Phase Two of WestJet Agent Direct will be ready. (PAX has followed up with WestJet for clarification). 

One benefit of the new system is that “we are able to add new functionality to the platform based on feedback,” Brunet shared.

“We look forward to being able to offer all partners access to WestJet Agent Direct,” she said, noting that the airline will make an announcement once the tool is available to all users.

Since WestJet Agent shut down, existing GDS users have been able to continue booking WestJet in their preferred GDS. Non-accredited agencies, meanwhile, have had to connect with their preferred consolidator.

The shutdown did not impact any other booking platforms such as WestJet Biz, SIREV or any GDS. Tools with WestJet Vacations and WestJet Vacations Groups were also unaffected.

The retiring of WestJet Agent, last fall, came days before The WestJet Group announced its newly-created Sunwing Vacations Group, which encompasses five vacation and retail travel brands – Sunwing Vacations and WestJet Vacations, U.S. tour operator Vacation Express, travel retail businesses and Luxe Destination Weddings.

Around that same time, PAX asked WestJet Group’s CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech about the closure of WestJet Agent at a Toronto Region Board of Trade luncheon in October. 

While he didn’t know specifics at the time, von Hoensbroech said he was aware of the issue and that his team was “working very intensely to create a solution.”

WestJet Group CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech. (Supplied)

“Our travel partners are very important to us,” von Hoensbroech told PAX at the time. “Obviously we sell a certain share of tickets on our direct channels, but we also sell a very significant chunk through our travel partners. Having travel partners that are offering what we have, and selling it to our guests, is core to our strategy.”

“We will make sure that our partners have all the tools and services they need to be able to sell WestJet tickets or vacation packages.”

This is a developing story.

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