WestJet Airlines, the Calgary-based carrier, recently announced plans to integrate Sunwing Airlines into its mainline operations by October 2024. The merger, initially set in motion with WestJet’s acquisition of Sunwing’s key airline and vacation divisions last May, will see the latter’s 18 Boeing 737s and 2,000 employees transition smoothly into WestJet’s existing structure.
While WestJet has established itself as a reputable and reliable airline, this consolidation brings to light some concerns that are not uncommon in merger scenarios: notably, the reduction of consumer choice.
According to a report by the Competition Bureau, WestJet and Sunwing collectively account for 37% of seat capacity on direct flights to sun destinations and an overwhelming 72% in Western Canada. The apprehension is that with less competition, particularly in smaller cities and Western Canada, there could be fewer service options and potentially higher fares for travelers.
Promises vs. Reality: Will WestJet Uphold Its Commitments Post-Merger?
Both airlines have committed to maintaining capacity on the most affected routes as part of the conditions set by Ottawa for approving the Sunwing acquisition. They have also pledged to retain Sunwing Vacations’ head office in Toronto and a regional one in Montreal for a minimum of five years.
Simultaneously, WestJet is in the process of bringing its budget subsidiary, Swoop, under its mainline banner, leveling the pay field for pilots across both segments.
Questions Over Monopoly: WestJet's Growing Market Share
While consolidations like this can offer operational efficiencies and more streamlined services, they also invariably remind us of the downsides of reduced competition—less choice and flexibility for the consumer. As the integration process unfolds, it will be critical to monitor how WestJet manages to balance these concerns while striving for growth and market dominance.