Calgary-based airline WestJet celebrates 20 year anniversary

Click to play video: 'WestJet turns 20-years-old'
WestJet turns 20-years-old
WATCH ABOVE: A big day for the little airline that could as WestJet celebrates 20 years of being in business. Gary Bobrovitz reports – Feb 29, 2016

CALGARY – Monday marks 20 years since Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet launched its first flight.

The Calgary-based airline, founded by Clive Beddoe and a team of partners, first took to the skies in 1996.

“In just 20 years, WestJet has established itself as a great Canadian success story,” WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky said. “From humble beginnings, we have grown to become an international airline and a strong contributor to the growth of Calgary, the province and the country.”

When WestJet first began flying on Feb. 29, 1996, the airline had just three aircraft and served five destinations including Vancouver, Kelowna, Edmonton, Calgary and Winnipeg. Now, WestJet has over 140 aircraft serving 102 destinations in over 20 countries.

In addition, the company has grown from a staff of 220 employees to nearly 12,000.

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“We launched WestJet to make a difference in the lives of Canadians,” WestJet co-founder Clive Beddoe said. “We wanted to do things differently right from the beginning, lowering fares, changing rules that didn’t make sense and making it possible for more people than ever before to travel by air.

Original WestJet employee Ethel Egilson recalls the launch of the airline, saying it was an exhilarating time.

“I think the thing that was really unique about it, is that we had people that had never worked at an airline,” Egilson said. “The energy was exciting.”

In celebration of their 20th anniversary, WestJet offered a birthday seat sale on Monday and also unveiled a new Canadian-inspired logo featuring a stylized blue and teal maple leaf. In addition, many WestJet employees greeted guests wearing vintage uniforms from the past 20 years.

Transportation Minister Marc Garneau is set to help WestJet celebrate the anniversary by attending a birthday ceremony in Calgary Monday afternoon.

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