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WestJet orders up to 20 Boeing Dreamliners as part of international expansion plan

Click to play video: 'WestJet CEO says new planes will open up new geography for company'
WestJet CEO says new planes will open up new geography for company
WATCH ABOVE: WestJet President and CEO, Gregg Saretsky, says adding new dreamliners will open up new destinations for the company – May 2, 2017

WestJet was once known as “the little airline that could,” but news it is buying several long-haul jets has the Calgary-based company poised to join the big leagues of international air travel.

WestJet announced Tuesday it has agreed to buy up to 20 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircrafts.

The airline said the agreement includes a firm order for 10 Dreamliners to be delivered between the first quarter of 2019 and December 2021. The airline also has an option to buy an additional 10 Dreamliners to be delivered between 2020 and 2024.

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WATCH: WestJet CEO lays out timeline for low coast carrier and new planes.
Click to play video: 'WestJet CEO lays out timeline for low coast carrier and new planes'
WestJet CEO lays out timeline for low coast carrier and new planes

“This order represents an exciting new chapter in WestJet’s history,” WestJet president and CEO Gregg Saretsky said. “We have carefully executed on our strategic plan, first launching WestJet Encore to connect smaller communities across Canada to our growing network followed by our successful venture into wide-body flying to Hawaii and London Gatwick.”

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“Now, with the most sophisticated commercial airliner available, we turn our attention to further growing our international presence and introducing even more travellers to our award-winning guest experience.”

With a range of more than 14,000 kilometres, WestJet said the Boeing Dreamliner will give it the ability to serve new destinations in Asia and South America and to expand its options in the European market.

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Artistic rendering of what WestJet’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft would look like.
Artistic rendering of what WestJet’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft would look like. CNW Group/WestJet

WestJet’s first transatlantic offerings began in 2014 with seasonal flights between St. John’s and Dublin, Ireland. Routes to Glasgow, Scotland and London Gatwick in England have since been added, but the Dreamliner will allow WestJet to fly farther east into Europe.

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The Dreamliner is touted as Boeing’s most fuel-efficient jet. Currently, there are three variations of the plane, with the 787-9 being the middle-sized version that can typically seat about 280 passengers.

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Artistic rendering of what WestJet’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft would look like.
Artistic rendering of what WestJet’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft would look like. CNW Group/WestJet

“WestJet, for its entire 21-year history, has been a loyal all-Boeing jet customer and we’re excited to see them expand their fleet with the 787,” Ray Conner, vice-chairman of The Boeing Company, said.

WestJet said it has selected General Electric’s GEnx-1B engine for the 787.

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The value of the orders wasn’t disclosed, but part of the cost could be offset by converting firm orders of Boeing 737s that were to be delivered to WestJet starting in 2019.

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WestJet currently offers service to more than 100 destinations, including North America, Central America, the Caribbean and the United Kingdom.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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