WestJet has announced another route expansion for 2022. The airline will connect its hub at Calgary International Airport (YYC) to London Heathrow (LHR) in the spring. The carrier will utilize a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route to expand its international route portfolio and create a second major airline in Canada to rival dominant Air Canada.
WestJet plans new Heathrow route
WestJet has announced that it will start nonstop service to London Heathrow Airport (LHR) in early spring 2022. The route will launch ahead of the busy summer season and augment the airline’s growing route network and expand its London portfolio to serve two airports.
The airline did not reveal many details about the service, including a launch date, frequency, and schedule. Those details will come in the following weeks. However, the airline has announced that it will utilize a Boeing 787 Dreamliner on the route, which is its only long-haul widebody aircraft and features three distinct cabin classes.
John Weatherill, WestJet’s Chief Commercial Officer, stated the following on the route:
“As the airline with the most flights from Alberta, this is an important recovery milestone as we forge new connections between Canada and one of the world’s most sought after global hubs. We continue to strengthen our network, offering more options for business and leisure travellers and these investments will expedite our industry’s recovery while ensuring Western Canada builds back from the pandemic more connected than ever before.”
WestJet is planning on utilizing a Boeing 787-9 on this route. These planes seat 320 passengers with three cabin classes of service. Between doors one and two on the aircraft, WestJet offers two cabins. There are 16 lie-flat business class seats in a reverse herringbone configuration. Just behind it are 28 recliner-style premium economy seats. From door two onwards, the airline’s planes feature 276 economy seats. All seats feature on-demand seatback entertainment and power. Customers will also be able to purchase internet access.
Growing its London portfolio
WestJet will be running flights to two airports in London. While it will be adding flights from Calgary to Heathrow, it will also continue to operate flights to London’s Gatwick Airport (LGW). From Gatwick, WestJet will fly to Calgary, Vancouver, Toronto, and Halifax.
When it comes to London airports, Heathrow reigns supreme. However, Gatwick is also an important alternative. While the desired airport is Heathrow, getting the slots to operate there is a challenging endeavor and can come at a high cost. WestJet decided to focus on Gatwick and kept its eyes out for other opportunities. Now, it has found one in Heathrow.
Next summer, WestJet will only compete against Air Canada on the route from Calgary to Heathrow. British Airways used to fly the route, but it announced it was cutting the route late last year. Air Canada flies a daily service using a Boeing 787-9 on the route, according to schedules in Cirium.
Few cities in the world are as important as London. As a major leisure and business hub, airlines looking to grow in long-haul international importance in North America typically target that airport. Look no further than JetBlue, which made a splash with its flights to London Heathrow and Gatwick, though it had a well-documented struggle getting slots it desired to fly to London.
Expecting a big transatlantic summer
WestJet is anticipating a large rebound in transatlantic travel next year. Between business and leisure travelers, with borders reopened on both sides of the Atlantic, airlines are busy adding flights in summer 2022 to capitalize on the next phase of the recovery. Summer 2021, while there were reopenings, remained a bit haphazard with different geographies reopening at different times and a wide variety of different entry restrictions.
Many border reopenings for summer 2021 came relatively late for airlines to jump on the recovery and get their networks oriented there. However, this offers a chance for airlines to capitalize on the recovery in 2022 and beyond. WestJet has some other exciting transatlantic plans, with recent additions to Ireland and Scotland – popular summertime vacation destinations.
WestJet is far from the only airline to place their bets on a big boost in transatlantic travel next year. United Airlines similarly has placed its bet on transatlantic travel, including a sizable expansion from Heathrow. Air Canada is rebuilding its transatlantic network. European airlines are also coming back, including WestJet’s partners in Air France and KLM.