By Benjamin Pham
WestJet Looks to California As US-Canada Border Reopens
Earlier this year, several leaders in the international community — particularly from countries that are hotspots for tourists and leisure travel — reopened their borders after vaccines had reached significant penetration levels in developed international markets, hoping to halt the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
After having its transborder closure with the U.S. extended several times, Canada ultimately reopened its border in early August. As a result, the two countries have seen a substantial rise in the number of travelers crossing the border in the past few weeks. In response to that surge in travelers who have proven themselves eager to see the long-awaited border reopening, WestJet is preparing to restore and expand its transborder network.
The carrier, which has a key strategic base in the Canadian province of Alberta, plans to resume flights from Orange County, Calif. to Calgary on Nov. 4, operating two flights per week before increasing to three times weekly. Existing flights from San Francisco to Calgary will be scheduled for twice per week starting on Oct. 31, an extension from seasonal summer service.
“We are excited to increase connectivity between the Golden State and Alberta, another step toward strengthening our presence as Western Canada’s largest air carrier while restoring our transborder network,” WestJet Chief Commercial Officer John Weatherill said in a statement. “Whether visiting the many world-renowned theme parks in Orange County, escaping the cold winter to explore San Francisco’s coastline or jet-setting to marvel at the Canadian Rockies, these routes will provide more affordable and convenient travel options for business and leisure travel.”
For its flight schedule and route expansion for the U.S. west coast, which will be mainly in California, Westjet expects to utilize to use its existing codeshare partnership with Delta for increased connectivity.
While WestJet is gearing up for the surge in passenger demand to cross to and from Canada, Air Canada — its domestic rival and most significant major competitor — has also been racing to resume flights and increase frequencies from its destinations in the U.S. to its hubs across Canada. As travel restrictions were loosened earlier this month, the prominent Star Alliance carrier announced its U.S.-Canada schedule starting Aug. 9 would include over 200 daily flights, featuring new routes as well as restarting previously existing ones.
During the summer, the carrier announced new air services to two warmer destinations in Florida, both operating from the eastern Canadian city of Quebec City. Flights to Fort Lauderdale will inaugurate on Nov. 19, operating up to four times weekly, while flights to Orlando will start on Dec. 17, as the winter travel season is slated to begin, operating once a week.
“We’re excited to be launching these two new routes to Florida from Quebec City, a first for Air Canada. We know that, for many Quebecers, Florida is a popular place for winter vacations,” Mark Galardo, Air Canada’s Senior Vice President of Network Planning and Revenue Management, said in a statement.
WestJet is striving to sustain its route network between the U.S. and Canada and is aware of the rapid growth in demand for transborder crossings. However, the airline is competing side-by-side with Air Canada, its major rival and a significant obstacle for capturing as much of the market as possible. As a result, it is imperative for the Calgary-based carrier to continue to add more flights where necessary to be ahead of its formidable foe come the end of 2021.