WestJet Delays Budget Carrier

Full-scale unionization drives in virtually all departments at WestJet have followed the successful bid by the Airline Pilots Association to organize pilots. Flight attendants, gate staff, mechanics and ramp employees are all being asked to sign cards as staff describe a deteriorating work environment. Last month, CEO Gregg Saretsky emailed all employees asking them to resist unionization efforts because the unions were misleading them and were only after their dues money. It’s not clear if the turmoil at WestJet is behind its decision to delay introduction of a no-frills budget airline.

Saretsky told analysts during a second quarter financials call that the new airline won’t launch until next summer because it’s taking time to organize the effort. He said that 10 aircraft have to be converted to the budget configuration and trying to get that done for this year would have meant taking them out of service during the busy Christmas season. The new carrier will be operated independently from WestJet and will be established as a non-union company with its own staff and head office. WestJet made a $48.4 million profit in the second quarter.