WestJet seems to have planned a single, clear flight destination for 2022, and that destination is “CGO”. Not even four full months into the new year, and the airline is already gearing up for cargo cruise level. From an outside perspective, WestJet’s action plan looks set to garner the best cargo brains in the business, whilst check-marking a good number of UN SDGs along the way.
“Gone are the days of relying only on passenger planes and routes for shipments. In 2022, with the introduction of our new freighters, we will have additional frequency and be able to plan new, customized routes and increased frequency based on the needs of our cargo customers,” the airline declares on the cargo pages of its website.
Keying in the flight route
25 successful years in the passenger business and a devastating pandemic later, which saw WestJet lose around 10,000 of its 14,000 employees within the space of a few months (due to redundancies and proposed severance and retirement packages), the airline turned its focus to a certain and necessary revenue-generator. In June last year, it announced the upcoming launch of WestJet Cargo: “Our new, dedicated commercial cargo aircraft are a natural evolution of the competitive guest services WestJet has successfully provided over our 25-year history. It [sic] will provide cargo customers with the reliable on-time performance and competitive cost advantage synonymous with WestJet,” Charles Duncan, WestJet’s then Executive Vice-President, Cargo, and President of WestJet’s low-cost carrier, Swoop, said at the time. The vision: a fleet of dedicated 737-800BCFs, the first of which was expected to be in service by the second quarter of 2022.
And here it is!
Right on schedule, on 08APR22, WestJet Cargo took delivery of the first of the four Boeing 737-800 Converted Freighters due to come this year. On lease from BBAM Limited Partnership (BBAM), the aircraft signified a number of premieres: Serial number MSN 34686 was the first completed conversion by Boeing at an approved MRO facility in Guangzhou, China; WestJet Cargo is the first Canadian airline to operate this particular aircraft type; and there’s a first for BBAM, too, as its President and CEO, Steve Zissis, stated: “BBAM is excited to partner with our long-time customer WestJet as they launch WestJet Cargo. This is our first North American placement of the Boeing 737-800BCF, an important milestone for BBAM’s industry-leading freighter program.” An even more significant milestone for WestJet Cargo as it marks its kick-off into the full cargo world, ready to focus on express and e-commerce freight, and tapping into a pool of highly qualified B737 WestJet pilots for its modern, flexible, and fuel-efficient cargo fleet.
The best strategy, when venturing into new territory, is to bring in people with a solid background and expertise in that area. Sourcing those people from different environments forms an even stronger foundation. WestJet began the year with the announcement that Alexis von Hoensbroech had been appointed the airline’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), coming over from Austrian Airlines (as CEO & CFO). During his previous tenure as CCO of Lufthansa Cargo AG in 2014-2018, he succeeded in turning the company around from a €-64-million annual result to €+240 million, laid a strong focus on digitalization, innovation, and quality, and spoke in favor of a transparent, functioning e-commerce approach in cargo. Add to this, now, WestJet’s latest expert cargo recruit, and WestJet Cargo is definitely ready to go off-blocks.
A bright Bruijn future
On 05APR22, WestJet revealed that Qatar Airways Cargo’s Senior Vice President Cargo Sales and Network Planning, Kirsten de Bruijn would be taking on Charles Duncan’s role as WestJet’s Executive Vice-President, Cargo later this month. Having spent a year and 8 months at the world’s largest cargo carrier, the opportunity to then shape the start of a completely new freight airline is no doubt a chance not to be missed. With Kirsten, WestJet gains 15 years of airline experience gleaned in a variety of functions at two leading Middle East cargo airlines (Qatar and Emirates), as well as one of Europe’s leading cargo groups: Air France KLM Martinair Cargo. “Kirsten has demonstrated consistent and proven success in driving strategic growth for an impressive portfolio of Cargo businesses around the globe,” Alexis von Hoensbroech, WestJet CEO, confirmed. “As WestJet Cargo enters a pivotal moment of providing much-needed competitive choice and prices to customers across our network and beyond, there is no better leader for the task.”
Love where you’re going
Kirsten de Bruijn’s responsibilities going forward include what she has already demonstrated in her past roles: “building the airline's dedicated cargo capabilities and service offerings, while growing a high-performing cargo organization capable of succeeding within a rapidly evolving market,” the release outlines, going on to quote her statement regarding her new position: “I am thrilled to be joining WestJet Cargo as the business sets sights on a competitive and aggressive expansion. With such a strong foundation supported by a growing fleet, team, and complementary network, I am confident that WestJet Cargo has a bright future ahead as we strive to bring customers more choice and the caring customer service akin to the WestJet brand”.
The airline’s website has the last word on WestJet Cargo, promising that it will be: “Taking your shipments further: With our new dedicated freighters, we’re bringing the care you expect from WestJet to our new cargo services.”
What can I say, WestJet, other than I “Love where you're going*”!
*WestJet’s ad campaign “Love where you’re going”, launched in NOV18, reflecting its four company culture values: act like an owner; care from the heart; rise to the challenge, and work together to win.
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