WestJet sets sights on low-cost leisure with purchase of 42 more airplanes
WestJet is making a substantial addition to its fleet with the purchase of 42 aircraft as the airline plans to expand its low-cost offerings, with plans to add routes to sun destinations from cities across Canada.
The Calgary-based airline announced the agreement with Boeing for the purchase of the 737-10 MAX planes on Thursday.
The purchase, which was on top of an existing order of 23 aircraft, includes the option to add 22 more planes depending on demand.
The purchase is a part of the airline’s plan to expand its low-cost offerings and offer sun and leisure flying across Canada, said WestJet Group’s chief executive officer, Alexis von Hoensbroech.
Earlier this month, WestJet said in a press release that it would be suspending several routes to Atlantic Canada, including flights between Halifax and Montreal, as of Oct. 28. Spring flight schedules are not yet available.
WestJet chief commercial officer John Weatherill said the decision was difficult but will help in the long run, as the airline shifts more of its eastern routes to sun and leisure destinations.
However, he said WestJet is not stopping Atlantic flights completely; instead, von Hoensbroech said the airline plans to ramp up its cross-country flights and flights from the East to leisure destinations including the Southern U.S. and the Caribbean.
“What we will do less, is flying within the East,” said von Hoensbroech. “So flights between Montreal and Toronto will decrease but Montreal to Cancun will increase.”
“We are a low-cost carrier and we want to improve our low-cost positioning,” said von Hoensbroech.
Supporting this move is the pending Sunwing acquisition, given Sunwing’s focus of servicing Eastern Canada’s leisure market, said WestJet’s chief executive officer.
Brought with the incoming aircraft is the need for more cabin crew, ground handlers and pilots, a challenge recognized by WestJet’s chief executive officer, as staffing levels have been an industry-wide problem after the return of domestic and international travel.
While some roles are more challenging to fill, von Hoensbroech said that he is confident WestJet will find enough staff for the expansion and said it will create hundreds and thousands of additional job and career opportunities within WestJet.
“If you’re a pilot and you are joining an airline that is growing, this will give you a faster track to become a captain than if you are joining an airline that is not growing as fast as we do,” said von Hoensbroech.
WestJet says the Boeing 737-10 MAX provides the lowest cost per seat among mid-range aircraft and is part of the airline’s plan to offer more affordable flights.
The order will start delivering at the end of 2024 through to 2028, expanding the fleet by 65 aircraft over six years.
WestJet wouldn’t yet say whether the 42 additional aircraft will service WestJet alone or if they will also fly under Swoop, the airline’s ultra-low-cost carrier.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 29, 2022.
Caitlin Yardley, The Canadian Press
StatCan report casts clouds on claims of a widespread labour shortage in Canada
A new report is casting doubt on the idea that Canada is facing a widespread labour shortage, bolstering arguments by labour economists who say the country has more than enough workers. A sign for help wanted is pictured in a business window in Ottawa on Tuesday, July 12, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
By Nojoud Al Mallees in Ottawa
A new report is casting doubt on the idea that Canada is facing a widespread labour shortage and bolsters the arguments by some labour economists that high job vacancies aren’t due to a shortage of workers.
The Statistics Canada analysis finds there are no labour shortages for jobs that require high levels of education, suggesting other factors, such as a mismatch in skills and pay, might be to blame for a high number of empty positions.
In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, labour shortages have grasped headlines from coast to coast as businesses have advertised more job openings than ever. Job vacancies skyrocketed to more than one million at one point last year.
The perceived countrywide labour shortage has put pressure on governments to help businesses find workers, including by increasing Canada’s immigration targets.
But the report published this week compares unemployment and job vacancies by education level and paints a more nuanced picture of the labour market.
“Things look really different depending on whether you look at vacancies that require a high level of education, versus those that require a high school diploma or less,” said René Morissette, the assistant director of social analysis and modelling division at the federal agency.
The report, which looked at labour data between 2016 and 2022, found for jobs requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher education, there were always fewer jobs available than people to fill them.
For example, there were 113,000 vacant positions requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher education in the fourth quarter of 2022, but 227,000 individuals who held such an education were unemployed during the same period.
But for positions that required a high school diploma or less, the shortage of workers only started in the third quarter of 2021.
Morissette said the findings don’t mean that there are no labour shortages in some markets, but shortages may not be as extensive as previously assumed.
“It’s certainly conceivable that there are local shortages in some in some positions,” Morissette said. “What we’re saying is that the shortages may not be as widespread as initially assumed in the early discussions about the high vacancy rates in Canada.”
For employers trying to fill vacancies that require a post-secondary education, the report says their hiring challenges cannot be attributed to a lack of workers available with those qualifications.
Instead, the difficulties may be the result of a mismatch in skills required for the job and those possessed by candidates. Another factor could be that employers aren’t offering wages that are on par with what job seekers expect.
The report also casts doubt on the hiring challenges facing firms trying to recruit workers with lower levels of education.
“The degree to which these job vacancies can be attributed to labour shortages in specific low-skilled occupations instead of relatively low-wage offers and fringe benefits or other factors remains an open question,” the report says.
Jim Stanford, an economist and the director of the Centre for Future Work, says the report from Statistics Canada busts “long-standing myths” about labour shortages in the country.
“If you were really short of labour, and you couldn’t find someone to do that minimum wage job at a McDonald’s restaurant, then why aren’t they either increasing the wage or trying to replace the work with machinery?” Stanford said.
“Neither are happening, which suggests to me that employers in general are quite happy with the current state of affairs, no matter how much they complain about labour being in short supply.”
So what explains the high number of job vacancies?
Morissette said for low-skilled industries, businesses may be choosing to keep wages low and accept higher vacancy rates.
“For employers that have negligible training costs, a human resource strategy that combines relatively low wages with high worker turnover and some vacancies might actually … maximize profits,” he said.
The federal government has kept an open ear to business groups raising alarm bells about labour shortages.
In the fall, Ottawa announced new immigration targets that would see the country welcome 500,000 immigrants annually by 2025. Immigration Minister Sean Fraser has touted the new plan as a solution to the country’s labour woes.
Canada has also experienced a surge in the number of temporary foreign workers brought into the country to help businesses fill vacant positions.
The apparent shortage of low-skilled workers could push policymakers to think that even more temporary workers are needed, but Stanford said that would be a “disastrous” conclusion to draw from the report.
Many economists have reservations about temporary foreign worker programs that they worry can suppress wages domestically, if used excessively.
“The goal of immigration policy should not be to solve the recruitment problems faced by low-wage employers, or any employers for that matter,” he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 27, 2023.
WestJet pilots deal grants 24% pay raise over four years
WestJet pilots are poised to get a 24 per cent pay bump over four years under an agreement-in-principle between the company and the union. Members of the Air Line Pilots Association demonstrate amid contract negotiations outside the WestJet headquarters in Calgary, Alta., Friday, March 31, 2023.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
WestJet pilots are poised to get a 24 per cent pay bump over four years under an agreement-in-principle between the company and the union.
A copy of the tentative agreement summary obtained by The Canadian Press states that pilots will receive a 15.5 per cent hourly pay raise this year retroactive to Jan. 1 upon ratification of the deal.
It also lays out a cumulative 8.5 per cent hike to their hourly wage over the remainder of the contract, from 2024 through 2026.
Bernard Lewall, who heads the Air Line Pilots Association’s WestJet contingent, said last Friday after reaching a deal that the union achieved its main goals of better pay, job security and work-life balance.
Aviation expert Rick Erickson says the deal marks a new standard for labour negotiations in Canadian aviation, and could also make it tougher for budget airline competitors to retain pilots.
Bargaining came down to the wire last week, with WestJet cancelling more than 230 flights in preparation for job action before a deal was reached hours ahead of the strike deadline Friday morning.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 26, 2023.
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