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WestJet bound for Asia, too? Airline sees new ‘opportunity’ it says

A Westjet Boeing 737-700 plane arrives at Vancouver International Airport.
A Westjet Boeing 737-700 plane arrives at Vancouver International Airport. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Canada’s second-biggest airline said Wednesday it could open new flights across the Pacific in the not-so-distant future as it builds out a fleet of bigger jets that can handle longer-haul routes.

“There is an opportunity,” Candice Li, WestJet’s interim head of finance, said at an investor conference.

WestJet took possession of a Boeing 767-300 widebody jet last month, the first of four aircraft the carrier plans to use for new non-stop service to London’s Gatwick airport beginning next May.

The aircraft, which seat 262 passengers or 50 per cent more than WestJet’s current main Boeing 737s, can fly 11 hours compared to the seven-hour maximum of the existing fleet.

“They can definitely make the hop to China and Japan,” Li said at the conference, which was hosted by CIBC.

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On Tuesday, WestJet officially announced new routes to London, England, next spring with daily flights from Toronto and several times a week from five other Canadian cities (St. John’s, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver).

MORE: WestJet launches new, cheaper routes to London beginning in May

Experts say WestJet’s London expansion will likely see airfares to the United Kingdom drop for Canadian travellers. Introductory pricing on flights to London start between $199 and $299 for a one-way ticket, taxes included.

In response, Air Canada has said it will begin flying its lower-cost Rouge service into Gatwick next summer.

Adding new routes across the Pacific would add another layer of complexity, Li said, not to mention the hefty cost of purchasing additional widebody aircraft. The focus for now is squarely on WestJet’s transatlantic expansion.

“We’re trying to get more learnings before we go bigger,” she said.

WATCH: Calgary-based WestJet unveiled its first Boeing 767 Wide Body, and analysts say it’s a big win for consumers. Global’s David Boushy reports.

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