WestJet Offers a Blast from the Past

Passengers on Canada’s low cost carrier WestJet might be in for a bit of a surprise if they are traveling to Prince George in northern British Columbia. During September, the airline will not be relying on their fleet of Boeing 737s to make the trip. Instead, passengers will find themselves boarding one of two Bombardier Dash-8 turboprop planes that have been leased by the airline.

WestJet’s fleet is made up of 737s. So why the change?

In the days of airline budget cuts, you might be surprised to know that the turboprop flights are not the beginning of a new cost-cutting strategy.

Construction on the main runway at Prince George’s airport will necessitate the use of a shorter runway, which is not long enough to accommodate the Boeing 737. The airline chose to continue service with the prop planes rather than taking Prince George out of the picture for a month. The Dash-8 will be able to safely land on the shorter runway.

Flights to Prince George might take a little longer during the month of September, but passengers will be able to use prop plane experience as a conversation starter at happy hour.

Southwest enters international market

It turns out that all of that hubub we heard about Southwest joining the international market earlier this year was true. And why not? They’re in the best financial situation of any of the current operating airlines — why not expand now while the the competition is faltering? Why not step on the throats of the choking airline industry?

Just today, the Dallas based company announced that they were entering a partnership with Westjet, one of Canada’s largest carriers. The deal will involve sharing flights and operations for a variety of services and will ultimately be implemented in late 2009.

Westjet, in case you’re wondering, is based in Calgary, AB and has focus cities in Edmonton and Vancouver. So this agreement will hopefully make travel from core Southwest sites up to the great north a little easier and less expensive — you also might be able to earn Southwest miles as well.

Details of the agreement are still slim, but as the integration continues we’ll probably get more info on exactly which routes and schedules will be merged between the two airlines. For now, consider this an ominous precursor to Southwest entering (and maybe taking over) the international airline market. Hold on to those shares.