The intensive groundwork has been done, it’s finally time to take to the air. On 07DEC22, Westjet Cargo announced the start date of its fledgling freighter fleet of four dedicated Boeing 737-800 freighters: 26MAR23 will be when the airline kicks off its pure cargo services across Canada. CargoForwarder Global (CFG) turned to Kirsten de Bruijn for more information.
“WestJet Cargo is about to enter a very promising and exciting period in its development. The arrival of our new fleet will enable us to meet the rising demand of the Canadian market, more than ever before,” Kirsten De Bruijn (KdB), WestJet Executive Vice President of Cargo, commented.
CFG: You announced the launch of the freighters on 26MAR23, does this mean that all 4 aircraft will take off on that day, or that they will start flying a regular, scheduled freighter
service from then on?
KdB: The aircraft will start operating on a scheduled network with a phased in approach as per S23 IATA schedule.
CFG: They have all already been delivered and are currently standing idle in Calgary, correct? And the delay is due to missing Canadian authorization?
KdB: Three out of the four are currently in Calgary. The fourth aircraft will be delivered in MAY23 and will phase into the network schedule then. The freighters are currently awaiting Transport Canada certification.
CFG: Will there be a celebratory "lift-off" event for when the aircraft commence operations?
KdB: We are in the planning of the event. Date and location will be announced.
CFG: Will any specific freight forwarders be supporting the first cargo loads?
KdB: We are currently in conversation with all of our current supporting forwarders and shippers, as well as with new potential customers that are excited to support us.
CFG: Will/do the aircraft have special names? What are their registrations?
KdB: Their registrations are C-FJWS, C-FTWJ, C-FAWJ, and C-GWJE.
CFG: Will they all fly domestically, only? Or are international flights planned?
KdB: We will serve the Canadian main markets: Calgary, Toronto, Halifax, and Vancouver. In addition, we will start operating Los Angeles and Miami. The detailed schedule will be communicated once all times and slots are confirmed.
CFG: Since WestJet has a number of interline partners, will any of these be sharing freighter space on WestJet?
KdB: Most definitely. We are developing strong interline partnerships in order to feed and defeed the Canadian market.
CFG: What has been the biggest challenge so far in setting up cargo operations?
KdB: It has been a great journey and challenge starting freighter operations within an airline that has only provided cargo services through the bellies of its passenger serving aircraft. Being able to work on all cargo foundations including educating the entire organization on ‘what is different for cargo only operations’ is one of the biggest and most interesting challenges.
CFG: Jettainer is responsible for ULD management - are any fire-resistant containers ordered for cargo?
KdB: We will begin with regular ULDs and AAY e-commerce containers.
CFG: As the first Canadian airline to promote SAF, is there any specific SAF program in place for cargo?
KdB: As part of the WestJet Group, we are thrilled that WestJet has announced a three-month route commitment to operating SAF flights from San Francisco to Calgary, becoming the first Canadian air carrier to operate a dedicated flight route using SAF. At this time, widespread access to SAF is constrained by limited production and high costs. Therefore, WestJet is focused on being a leader in advocating for this environmental solution to secure a future where SAF is the standard across the airline industry, and this three-month program is the first step. The WestJet Group, inclusive of WestJet Cargo, is committed to expanding its SAF Destination program as we work towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.
Thank you for these insights, Kirsten de Bruijn!
On a mission to put Calgary on the map
Earlier in the week, WestJet announced its 2023 expanded schedule plans which include new intercontinental routes between Calgary and Tokyo, Barcelona, Edinburgh, as well as increased frequencies between Calgary and Dublin, London, Paris, and Rome, “enhance[ing] options for leisure guests, business travel and cargo services,” the press release underlines. Alexis von Hoensbroech, WestJet Group Chief Executive Officer, stated: “This is an exciting day for the WestJet Group […] as we deliver on our new strategy and [plan to] increase our Calgary capacity by more than 25% in 2023. Starting with the expansion of our intercontinental routes, future announcements will focus on domestic and North American additions". Calgary was previously declared WestJet’s 787 home base – CFG reported: https://www.cargoforwarder.eu/2022/10/09/g-r-o-w-westjet/ . So, more cargo bellies to come, too.
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