Joel Schlesinger © Postmedia Network Inc.
WestJet is a well-known homegrown success story.
But the national airline is aiming to expand its presence in Calgary, which is already home to its corporate headquarters, by making YYC Calgary International Airport its central hub for flights.
It’s part of the company’s new ‘Team Calgary’ strategy.
“Having an airline based here is extremely important for Calgary’s economic development,” says John Weatherill, chief commercial officer at WestJet. “That upside is greatly augmented when an airline uses the airport for its operational hub.”
Although Calgary has been WestJet’s home base since its founding in 1996, it only recently designated YYC as its sole global hub to connect flights across North America and overseas.
Undoubtedly, all airports are key transportation hubs for any city, helping drive economic growth, Weatherill says.
“But it’s an airline that has to decide where and whether they create a hub operation,” he explains. “A hub simply means there is intentional connectivity through the airport that is built into the airline’s flight schedules.”
Previously, WestJet had three hub airports: Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary.
“Going forward, we have dedicated Calgary as our single global hub,” he says. “It will be the only airport where we intentionally build schedules allowing for maximum connectivity for travellers.”
The move will certainly further enhance Calgary’s unfolding economic renaissance, given hub airports generally have a beneficial impact, he adds.
“On a per capita basis, gross domestic product is 26 per cent higher in cities with an airline hub.”
Having direct, non-stop flights to major cities in North America, Europe and elsewhere is certainly a boon for Calgary’s business community.
“Companies wanting to tap into our region’s skilled labour force only do that if that workforce is well-connected to the global economy by the robust air service that a hub truly provides.”
Indeed, 75 non-stop flights from Calgary, expected to grow to more than 100 in coming years, will bring more business and tourism while allowing Calgarians — and generally Western Canadians — better access to economically priced air travel to more destinations.
Inevitably, the new hub brings investment, including WestJet’s recent fleet expansion.
The company recently inked a deal with Boeing to purchase an additional 42 MAX aircraft, along with options for 22 more for greater travel and leisure options.
WestJet’s commitment will add an additional 10 million seats per year.
“That’s amazing for a city of 1.5 million,” Weatherill notes. “So, our hub will certainly be a key piece in diversifying Calgary’s economy by effectively doubling WestJet’s capacity in and out of the city by the end of the decade.”
This story was created by Content Works, Postmedia’s commercial content division, on behalf of Calgary Economic Development.