British Airways CEO would welcome WestJet alliance
December 14, 2006
CALGARY, Alberta, Dec 14 (Reuters) - British Airways Plc would welcome an alliance with low-cost Canadian carrier WestJet Airlines Ltd now that it has beefed up service between London Heathrow and Canada, its chief executive said on Thursday.
British Airways began nonstop service this month to Calgary, Alberta, with five flights a week aimed at taking advantage of Alberta's booming oil-driven economy as well as the popularity of the Rocky Mountains as a tourist destination.
CEO Willie Walsh and other executives were scheduled to meet with WestJet's top brass in Calgary this week, but Walsh cautioned that it was merely a "courtesy call".
"If there were an opportunity to do something, we'd certainly be pleased to look at that," he told reporters.
WestJet is the country's second-largest carrier after Air Canada, which now faces more transatlantic competition from British Airways. WestJet is known for its growing domestic network and expansion into a handful of U.S. destinations.
"I've watched WestJet with interest just to see the way they've developed and I think they're a good airline providing good competition. I think that's important," Walsh said.
WestJet Chief Executive Clive Beddoe has often said that alliances with other carriers are in the cards.
But plans to switch to a new reservation system allowing code sharing or other hookups have been delayed several times.
Robin Hayes, British Airways' vice-president for the Americas, said many costumers already book their own connecting flights with Calgary-based WestJet.
Besides Calgary, his airline flies to Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. It plans to add a sixth weekly Calgary flight in March. It flew to Canada's oil and gas center for a brief period in the early 1980s.
Meanwhile, Walsh said he believed the current round of consolidation among the world's airlines is good for the industry as there is still too much capacity for demand.
Among recent deals, US Airways Group bid $8.6 billion for bankrupt Delta Air Lines in November and United Airlines parent UAL Corp. and Continental Airlines are said to be in preliminary merger talks.