It has been quite a time for air cargo over in Canada, with inaugural freighter deliveries and first-time freighter destinations – and not all from the same airline. No, while Air Canada Cargo has been expanding its network, WestJet Cargo has been celebrating its new wings.
Almost a case of “keeping up with the [Cargo] Joneses”, the outside observer might feel. That said, the slight hiccup with the recent gold heist (see this week’s Short Shots), may have knocked one of the two contenders for Canada’s favorite cargo airline, a little off course, if the news is correct. Time will tell.
A couple of inaugurations
But first, over to the funky, turquoise/green newcomer with the graffiti font in all its ads. A refreshing difference to many of the established air cargo carriers. WestJet Cargo entered into a 24-hour welcoming party on two locations. On 20APR23, together with the GTA Group, it gathered with VIP business partners and stakeholders in WestJet’s Toronto hangar, to ceremoniously inaugurate the first of the airline’s three 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters. Am official ribbon was cut, kicking off the launch of a dedicated freighter service “that will fulfill the large-scale needs of businesses, freight forwarders, shippers and individual customers across North America,” the release said. The freighter service opens up the potential to carry oversize shipments and unitized ecommerce ULDs alongside existing services such as perishables, ecommerce, or live animals.
Thrilled and excited
Kirsten de Bruijn, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Cargo, commented: “We are thrilled to be celebrating this long-awaited milestone in Toronto, a core hub for WestJet Cargo and home of the GTA Group. As Canada's largest global hub, Toronto is a vital destination for our dedicated freighter operation that will enable WestJet Cargo to plug into a vast network of cargo entering the country and allow us to seamlessly execute the distribution of this cargo to its final destination across Canada.”
Mario (Mauro) D'Urso, Chairman of The GTA Group of Companies, said: “Today is an exciting day for the GTA Group as we celebrate and welcome this highly anticipated moment in Toronto. This joint venture with WestJet Cargo will without a doubt, strengthen our position to meet the needs of the rapidly growing Canadian cargo market. The capacity of the four dedicated freighters, will bring customers new competitive options by providing more air freight capacity to cargo customers who depend on reliable and on-time performance. We are thrilled to see these freighters take flight as we strive to provide exceptional service to all of our customers and their business needs."
The very next day
21APR23 saw the WestJet Cargo and GTA Group celebration tour continue, this time over in Halifax, where the second dedicated freighter was inaugurated. Again, VIPs were invited, and a ribbon cut. Kirsten de Bruijn, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Cargo, commented: “Our Halifax hub unlocks unlimited potential to facilitate the distribution of a diverse variety of cargo products, including fresh seafood across Canada and enables WestJet Cargo to meet the large demand for freighter service across the east coast.” That service will run between hubs in Calgary, Halifax, Los Angeles, Miami, Toronto, and Vancouver, and complement WestJet Group's existing network. The freighters will improve global connectivity, opening trade lanes between Canada and the Caribbean, Europe, Japan, and the United States.
“Our incredibly talented team at WestJet Cargo is eager to disrupt Canada's air cargo market, by bringing competitive cost advantages, increased choice, reliable on-time performance, and exemplary customer service, to Canada's underserved air cargo market. Today's celebration signifies a green light to do just that, as we strive to meet the needs of Canada's expanding cargo market,” de Bruijn throws down the gauntlet. WestJet Cargo is keen to establish itself as a key player in the Canadian airfreight market, promising a competitively priced and reliable air cargo service. “It is an honor to celebrate this accomplishment amongst key partners and stakeholders, each of whom played an integral role in making today happen. The take-off of our dedicated freighters is a significant moment for Canada and the communities we serve, as we strengthen our ability to expand upon the essential products we carry across and beyond the country,” de Bruijn continued.
Two down, one more inauguration ceremony to go: On 25APR23, the third freighter will be celebrated over in Vancouver.
Meanwhile, over at Air Canada Cargo
Just a few weeks after touching down in Liège, Belgium, for the first time on 30MAR23, Air Canada Cargo last week celebrated its first freighter touchdown in Basel, Switzerland. Marking the landing on 20APR23, which kicked off a twice-weekly B767 service between Basel and Toronto, Matthieu Casey, Managing Director, Commercial at Air Canada Cargo, declared: “We are excited to be returning to Basel, this time with our freighters, to serve a key market in Europe for pharmaceuticals. The capability of our freighters, combined with our temperature-controlled containers and cool chain facility at our Toronto global hub, position us to serve this critical market with reliable, year-round service, and ensure these important shipments can move safely and in a timely manner throughout our global network.”
Not bad for an 85-year-old
In the same week, Air Canada published its Annual Report for 2022, the year that it turned 85. Page 12, dedicated to its cargo services, listed its competitive fleet plans: 2022 was the year the airline “finalized an agreement for the purchase of two new Boeing 777 freighter aircraft with deliveries expected in 2024.” Further, “Air Canada Cargo operated three Boeing 767 freighters in 2022, and expects to have 10 767 freighters [4 of which are due in 2023] and two 777 freighters in the next couple of years.” Its revenue growth last year was impressive, too: “Air Canada Cargo’s revenue grew to $1.3 billion in 2022, as compared to $717 million in 2019,” and at over 3,600 cargo-only flights to a mixed bag of Canadian, US, South American, and European destinations, using a mix of passenger aircraft, temporarily converted Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A330 aircraft, and 3 Boeing 767 freighters in 2022, it was pretty busy. Last year spelled Air Canada Cargo’s premiere in deploying Envirotainer’s Releye RLP and RAP ULDs, as the first Canadian operator to do so, and it inaugurated its own CAD 16 million cold chain handling facility at Toronto Pearson airport.
All achievements that WestJet may now aim for, too.
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