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WestJet shutting down Sunwing Airlines, folding it into operations


The days are numbered for Sunwing Airlines after WestJet announced it completed its acquisition of the airline and Sunwing Vacations on May 1. Seven weeks later, Sunwing is being folded into its mainline operations.

The decision comes the week after WestJet opted to also fold budget subsidiary Swoop’s operations under its flagship banner.

Both moves magnify the major consolidation of the Canadian aviation market.

For travellers like Zahro Banga, who is returning to Waterloo from a seven-day Sunwing Vacations trip to the Dominican Republic, the move is concerning.

“I’m not really happy about it,” he said. “Especially after this trip. I really was planning on going back with Sunwing on more trips.”

WestJet assured travellers that Sunwing Vacations will continue to offer affordable packages and plans to expand offerings but didn't menthon any changes to Waterloo region's airport. The company stressed that it will be business-as-usual this summer for the airline.

“The integration of all jets from Sunwing Airlines, Swoop and WestJet into one fleet will provide us with the scale to enhance our collective operational resilience, while offering more affordable fares and vacation opportunities across our entire network,” reads a statement in part, issued by WestJet on Monday.

Following the announcement, experts within the airline industry are weighing in on the ripple effect the merge could cause.

“Will there be layoffs? I’m not sure. It all depends on my friends at WestJet [and] how they decide to do this,” said John Gradek, an airline industry watcher. “In the normal course of activity, when you have these type of consolidations, there are layoffs at the management level or technical level.”

Looking to the future, Gradek added that this decision will ultimately result in less consumer choice.

“This is a business. These guys are running for profitability,” he said. “There will be rationalization of services and guess what? Prices will go up and prices going up is going to be the big concern for Canadian consumers and that would be something the government may want to look at as well.”


The announcement may be concerning for some travel insurance agencies but the president of Travel Secure Inc, Martin Firestone, said things are looking good for now.

“I’m seeing a tremendous lift and upswing in people booking reservations and travel and, of course, if you did book with Sunwing or Swoop for that matter, everything is going to be honoured… It’s really just a question of ‘will I be able to afford to travel anymore?’ and that’s where my world comes in. They need travel insurance if they’re booking trips but if they can’t afford these one-week vacation getaways, then that’s going to affect all of us and people won’t be travelling as much.”

As for why the company is merging, Firestone also had some ideas.

“I think it’s directly related and it’s repercussions to the recent salary increase that’s been offered to all WestJet pilots. Something had to give. I guess this, and the Swoop decision, are what happened as a result of not being able to come out with these low discount flights and pay those salaries that those pilots are now going to get.”

He added that, “Competition is a good thing and if we don’t have it, that’s going to cause a problem.”

- With files from the Canadian Press Top Stories

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