WestJet’s CEO has forecast more competitive pricing for popular flight routes to Europe and other international destinations as seat capacity continues to increase.
Airfare to popular international leisure destinations should cost less this winter and next summer than a year ago as carriers add capacity, the CEO of Canada’s WestJet Airlines told Reuters on Wednesday.
For North American carriers, prices for international travel soared over the past year as pent-up demand for leisure flights after pandemic-related lockdowns outstripped supply. But Onex Corp-backed WestJet, Canada’s second-largest airline, and other carriers are adding more capacity on routes to Europe and the Asia Pacific region.
“Last year, our observation was that there was probably more demand than the industry could serve. That’s why we also saw pricing going up quite substantially,” WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said in an interview on the sidelines of an Air Transport Association of Canada (ATAC) conference in Montreal.
“This winter is going to be different. I think this winter we’ll have a better supply-to-demand balance, which will give more affordability to Canadians,” von Hoensbroech added.
WestJet expects to fly almost half of the seats to sun destinations after acquiring leisure carrier Sunwing this year.
WestJet, which competes with larger rival Air Canada, sees strong demand for winter travel, although there has been “some trading down happening from higher-end vacations to more-affordable vacations,” von Hoensbroech said.
“We see strong bookings, slightly softer than what we saw last winter,” von Hoensbroech added.
Similarly, von Hoensbroech predicted more “balanced pricing” on travel to Europe next summer as more capacity comes online following an exceptional season in 2023.
“I would expect next summer there would be a different demand-to-supply equation on transatlantic,” von Hoensbroech said.
WestJet has 48 firm orders for Boeing Co’s larger MAX 10 aircraft. Von Hoensbroech said the airline hopes to take its first delivery in September 2024 following expected certification by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration next summer, “if the time plan doesn’t slip.”
Boeing has said it expects FAA certification for the MAX 10 in 2024 but has not specified a month.
Reporting By Allison Lampert in Montreal; Additional reporting by Valerie Insinna in Washington; Editing by Will Dunham
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