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'Canadian air travel is too expensive': WestJet CEO


The CEO of WestJet believes the reason the ultra low-cost airline model struggles to get off the ground in Canada is due to the country’s geography.

Alexis von Hoensbroech visited Atlantic Canada this week and spoke with CTV’s Todd Battis about wide-ranging issues affecting WestJet and the larger airline industry on Wednesday. He noted companies like Swoop and other groups couldn’t bring the ultra low-cost model from Europe to Canada due to population and geographic differences.

“The ultra low-cost model is actually pretty challenging in Canada because of its large geography and the very few large population centres,” he said. “There are only eight population centres with more than half a million people (in Canada). This is a massive difference (from Europe) and this is why ultra low-cost carriers have failed in Canada.

“The differences are pretty stark because Canada has twice the size of Europe with a tenth of the population.”

WestJet withdrew many flights from Atlantic Canada in the wake of the pandemic as it focused on the western part of the country, but it has added more trips to the region in recent months. In April WestJet returned to the Fredericton International Airport, offering direct flights to and from Calgary.

Hoensbroech said their main priorities include an emphasis on western Canada, leisure flights, and low fares.

“With regard to our priorities, we connect Atlantic provinces to western Canadian cities and we connect to leisure destinations,” he said. “Many people from Europe want to come here. We fly 10 times a week across the Atlantic from Halifax.

“Flying transcontinental is a key priority for us.”

On the topic of New Brunswick travel, Hoensbroech said the three airports in the province can divert traffic and he would prefer to see one main hub.

“The demand is subcritical in all three so consolidating them into one would improve the connectivity in New Brunswick,” he said. “In the long run maybe there’s an opportunity.”

Hoensbroech said WestJet and other airlines are continuing to rebound from the pandemic, but he would like to see measure that could lower pricey air fares.

“I think Canadian air travel is too expensive,” he said. “People in Canada deserve cheaper air fares. The infrastructure and the tax and fee burdens for our airlines are sky high compared to other countries.” Top Stories

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