Calgary-based WestJet will open new flights to Tokyo, Barcelona, and Edinburgh this spring, boosting links between western Canada and the world.
From April 30, WestJet will fly three times weekly between its Calgary hub (YYC) and Tokyo-Narita International Airport (NRT)—the airline’s first non-stop Asian destination from Calgary, operating seasonally during the summer with its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.
The new route will meet demand from tourists eager to visit Alberta, said WestJet’s new CEO, Alexis von Hoensbroech. “It’s going to put Calgary on an intercontinental landscape where Calgary has not been in the past,” he said. “I think the benefit for Calgary is really fantastic.”
Depending on the success of the link, the airline may further expand its network in Asia.
The new flights to Tokyo will be code-shared with Japan Airlines (JALL. “As transpacific air travel increases between Canada and Japan, this is an ideal time to launch this new step in our cooperation with Japan Airlines,” said John Weatherill, WestJet’s Chief Commercial Officer. “Both our countries have substantial inbound and outbound tourism markets, and this enhancement will bring more convenient options to travelers on both sides of the Pacific.”
WestJet will inaugurate non-stop services to Barcelona (BCN) and Edinburgh (EDI) the following month. Both flights will depart from Calgary and operate three times weekly.
The carrier will also increase frequencies to other European destinations by 65%. It will fly to London Heathrow (LHR), London Gatwick (LGW), and Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) seven times every week, as well as Rome Fiumicino (FCO) and Dublin (DUB) five times every week. All the transatlantic flights run seasonally, except the year-round service to Heathrow.
With the addition of Edinburgh to its network, WestJet will have four flights to the British Isles. Von Hoensbroech said he initially worried about the concentration of routes in one geographic area but said the demand exists primarily because around half of the passengers to Edinburgh connect to other destinations in Europe.
Scotland’s Minister of Transportation Jenny Gilruth added that the route would increase Scots’ access to Canada and the west coast of the United States. “It has the potential to create economic, social, and cultural benefits while also enhancing our international connectivity,” she said.
Of the Barcelona route, launching May 6, von Hoensbroech said it’s “one of the strongest inbound markets into Europe, but it’s also a strong market of people from Spain wanting to fly over the Atlantic.”
The expanded schedule follows WestJet’s decision to consolidate its seven long-haul 787s in Calgary and focus on serving western Canada, pulling back from unprofitable routes in the eastern provinces.
Earlier this year, WestJet opted to downsize its expensive hub at Toronto Pearson (YYZ) by removing its flight to Barcelona and swapping it to Calgary, where the airline’s capacity is expected to be bolstered by 25% next year. The airline will also maintain hubs in Vancouver (YVR) and Edmonton (YEG).
“With Calgary as home base to our 787 aircraft, access between western Canadian communities and these intercontinental destinations will play a vital role in creating an economically prosperous aviation pipeline that better connects Canadians to the world and the world to western Canada,” Von Hoensbroech said.
Alberta Premier, Danielle Smith, said the new flights will raise the province’s profile among investors. “We are seeing company after company choose to expand into our province.”
“Today’s announcement will grab the attention of even more entrepreneurs and show them that Alberta is the place to be and that WestJet is the way to get here,” Smith said.
Announcements of new routes within Canada and North America will follow to “bring even more affordable travel options to our [passengers] in the new year,” said von Hoensbroech.