WestJet Cargo’s freighters take flight


WestJet took delivery of the first of its freighters in April 2022, hoping to have them in service by the end of the year. However, certification from the Canadian authorities took longer than expected, preventing the company from using its airfreight fleet.

Now, having been given the green light by Transport Canada earlier this year, WestJet Cargo is finally ready to watch its freighters take off, as the company’s cargo operations kick into full gear. 

“The path to get here has been kind of exhilarating, with a brand-new team, lots of planning and deliverables,” Kirsten de Bruijn, Executive Vice President of WestJet Cargo, said. “The process has provided so many opportunities to learn and grow and really enabled us to set a strong foundation for our freighter business. Three of our tails will enter into service this month with the fourth undergoing final modifications before it joins the fleet later this year.” 

Process and partnerships 

Speaking after the certification, de Bruijn called it a “long-awaited milestone” for the company “that will now enable us to disrupt the air cargo industry in Canada,” as it readies its four B737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters for all-cargo operations. 

WestJet Cargo and the Canadian government worked closely every step of the way, with the carrier believing it has helped officials to better understand its “intent to better support Canada’s national transportation supply chain.” 

“We are very excited about the upcoming launch of our freighter operation: I’m sure everyone who was involved in this process looks forward to our formal entry into operations,” de Bruijn added. 

As well as its work with the Canadian government, WestJet has formed a partnership with the GTA Group to bring its vision to life. WestJet saw great potential in its work with the group, as it believes they are “experts in all parts of the logistics supply chain.” 

“With their knowledge and state-of-the art facilities, they fully complement the WestJet Cargo operation to offer best-in-class services to our customers, shippers and freight forwarders,” de Bruijn explained. 

READ: WestJet marks major milestone for its cargo operations

Distinct market 

WestJet Cargo saw a gap in the Canadian airfreight sector, believing that the country’s market has long been underserved with air cargo capacity. Bringing a team of highly flexible, agile and out-of-the- box thinkers, the carrier looks to offer exceptional service to its customers. 

“Our brand and product brings something fresh, innovative and exciting to the market; I really look forward to seeing the positive impact we have on the Canadian sector!” de Bruijn said. 

With potential for relative growth across the whole Canadian market, WestJet will create dedicated connectivity throughout the hubs of Miami, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax and Los Angeles, stimulating imports and exports. 

WestJet Cargo already carries a broad range of commodities, and the freighters will help it to expand its portfolio. It will continue to fly things like perishables, e-commerce and live animals, with the freighters enabling it to carry oversized items and unitised e-commerce pallets. “I like to think of it like everything we are doing now, just on a larger scale with added versatility and more tailored to the needs of our customers,” de Bruijn said. 

As the Canadian market becomes increasingly demanding, WestJet Cargo is looking forward to the ongoing development of its product offering. “Our team is prepared to fine-tune our products and services to suit customer needs, each of us is deeply committed to WestJet Cargo’s success. It’s a really great time to be a part of this business and culture,” de Bruijn said. 

The Canadian market presents a distinct set of challenges and opportunities for the airfreight sector due to its vast size and incredibly cold winters, requiring a specialist approach. 

“Many parts of the county are challenging to reach via air, and their needs, specifically in e-commerce, are largely underserved. This drives our focus and efforts to expand into these markets and ensure Canadians are receiving the products they desire,” de Bruijn said. 

READ: Jettainer and WestJet Cargo continuing successful partnership

Broad vision 

WestJet Cargo is bringing a broad vision to the industry that will allow it to provide “the most creative, agile and flexible solutions” for its customers with a cost competitive product. 

Domestically, the carrier’s primary challenge will be the weather, and with WestJet’s 27-years of experience, this is definitely something it is prepared to handle. 

Internationally, the year ahead will see challenges related to the economic landscape. Air cargo has always been cyclical, and WestJet Cargo will focus on the creative ways it can meet this challenge. 

“WestJet Cargo is in a great position to be flexible based on changes in the air cargo landscape, and because our freighters are integrated with the existing passenger network, we will continue to have access to that network,” de Bruijn said. 

This is a really electric year for WestJet Cargo. “Our team is super high-energy and passionate and I’m constantly impressed with the innovative and creative ways they are committed to doing business,” de Bruijn said. 

“Canada is a huge country with an ongoing demand for distribution. We do not see as much exposure to economic downturn as other countries and markets. This is exactly what will allow WestJet Cargo to evolve. Our teams are growing and we’ve introduced new IT systems, processes and programmes that will ensure we remain stable and well-positioned for future expansion,” the WestJet Cargo executive vice-president continued. 

Looking to the future, WestJet Cargo sees many possibilities. The company is heavily investing in infrastructure, digitisation, product and talent. At the same time, the carrier is putting a significant amount of focus on its internal and external tools – all with the idea that it wants to be easy to do business with.