TORONTO — Sunwing Airlines will merge into WestJet’s mainline operations, but Sunwing Vacations will continue to operate as its brand while leveraging the WestJet network.
With a timeline of up to two years before these changes happen, the industry is hoping for a smooth transition.
“We can confirm that Sunwing Airlines will be integrated into WestJet as part of the WestJet Group’s one jet aircraft operating certificate (AOC) strategy. This is a long-term move that will unlock greater scale as one AOC and create more opportunities for Sunwing Airlines employees under the WestJet Group. While exact timelines are still being determined, the integration is expected to take up to a couple of years,” said Len Corrado, President, Sunwing Airlines.
Following up on the news, Andrew Dawson, President, Tour Operations, had this to say: “The tour operator is not impacted by the airline integration. Sunwing Vacations will continue as the leading tour operator in Canada as part of the WestJet Group, while leveraging the WestJet network to drive increased scale and growth in the sun leisure segment alongside the WestJet Vacations brand.”
ACTA President Wendy Paradis told Travelweek the announcement resulted in no comments, questions or concerns expressed to ACTA over the weekend. Paradis added: “Any questions from the public could easily be handled by an experienced travel advisor. ACTA will monitor the situation.”
FEWER AIRLINES, FEWER OPTIONS
When the federal government gave its go-ahead to the WestJet Group and Sunwing deal, it laid out several strict terms and conditions. Aviation industry expert John Gradek, in a March 2021 interview with Travelweek’s deputy editor Cindy Sosroutomo, took a look at the conditions one by one.
On maintaining capacity on routes most affected by the merger, Gradek said: “I’m assuming this refers to routes served by both carriers simultaneously. Will WestJet be required to have two aircraft running side by side on the same route, or will they be required to do double-dailies (ie. early a.m. and evening flight) with the same aircraft? Again, if the government gets involved in flight scheduling, what is their role, their competencies in evaluating and understanding commercial decisions?”
And for the condition stipulating the maintenance of a vacations business head office in the Toronto area and a regional office in the Montreal area for a minimum of five years, Gradek said: “This is a standard political condition. Look for consolidation after the five years.”
While Canada’s airline industry, with all its new entrants, has been ripe for consolidation for some time, fewer carriers mean fewer options for travellers, and typically, higher prices.
The news about Sunwing Airlines came a week after word that Swoop would be integrated into WestJet’s mainline operations as well.
Travelweek reached out to travel agents for their reaction. “No calls from customers so far as we didn’t book Swoop, and the Sunwing merge looks to be happening in 2025,” said Faith Sproule, owner of Dartmouth, NS-based Niche Travel Group.
She added: “I am thrilled to hear that the Sunwing aircraft will be used for the 2025 summer season instead of leasing them to foreign companies. It may be WestJet aircraft that is used for Europe, but either way we need more lift over the pond. If Sunwing follows the rules outlined in the competition bureau this could be a good thing for Canadians for international travel.”