WestJet Airlines Ltd. is only kicking tires now, but you can add the popular Boeing 787 Dreamliner to the carrier's list of long-term strategic options.
The Calgary-based airline, fresh off a record $114.7-million profit last year, is looking to the future and that includes reviewing its destinations and aircraft requirements.
"As part of the fleet planning group, we look at all types of aircraft. You have to know what's going on in the industry," WestJet president Sean Durfy said in an interview. "Strategically, we have enough opportunity for our Boeing 737 aircraft to 2010."
Beyond 2010, WestJet is still examining its options "to continue our growth footprint. We have to continue to look at where we're going to grow," Mr. Durfy said.
WestJet operates flights to 34 North American cities and Nassau, Bahamas, and is considering adding Caribbean destinations within a couple of years. If the airline were to either buy or lease Boeing 787s, overseas destinations could conceivably be added by 2013.
Industry sources said Boeing Co. officials have kept in touch with WestJet executives over the past three years about ordering the 787 Dreamliner, even though WestJet previously decided that the long-range plane wasn't practical for its domestic and transborder service into the United States.
In June, 2004, when the 787 had the early name of 7E7, Boeing officials travelled to WestJet's Calgary head office to visit the airline's executive team, showing off a computer-generated 7E7 photo with WestJet's logo, an industry insider said.
Boeing declined to comment on its sales pitches to WestJet. "We speak with all airlines all the time as their fleets evolve to see if we may have the right solution for them." Boeing spokesman Nicolaas Groeneveld-Meijer said. Air Canada has ordered 787s for delivery starting in 2010. Demand is so brisk for the 787 Dreamliner that Boeing production lines "are committed through 2012," Mr. Groeneveld-Meijer said.
WestJet is expanding seat capacity, filling more seats on each flight and improving yield. "We call it the trifecta," Mr. Durfy said. He was upbeat yesterday after WestJet said its 2006 profit soared to $114.7-million from $24-million. Revenue jumped to $1.77-billion from $1.39-billion.
In the fourth quarter, WestJet's profit surged to $26.7-million from $1-million. Fees from headsets, in-flight movies and buy-on-board sandwiches helped the bottom line.
Clive Beddoe, WestJet chairman and chief executive officer, said he's thrilled with the airline's 2006 profit and forecasts good times in 2007 as WestJet battles Air Canada.
"These results are a huge testament to our whole team at WestJet," Mr. Beddoe said. "The competitive environment is healthy. We've got two financially viable airlines in Canada -- both growing, with us growing at a faster rate than our chief competitor."
Meanwhile, WestJet has renewed its partnership with Transat A.T. Inc., agreeing to fly on behalf of the Montreal-based tour operator in a new three-year pact that lasts until Oct. 31, 2010. WJA (TSX) fell 10 cents to $15.50.