WestJet in alliance talks with Emirates Airline Targets World Market

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By Kim Guttormson  www.calgaryherald.com

WestJet is in discussions with Emirates Airline about a potential alliance, as part of the carrier’s plans to expand its global reach.

Emirates — currently battling the federal government over its ability to increase flights to Canadian cities — is one of a number of airlines WestJet is talking to, CEO Gregg Saretsky said Monday.

“There’s a list of 70 carriers that have expressed an interest in WestJet. We’re working through that list in some priority, that priority being, really, the amount of revenue that we can expect to see from each of those carriers,” he said.

“Emirates is one of those 70 on the list.

“It covers one region we’re talking about, Africa and the Middle East.”

Emirates, which has also clashed with Air Canada about its desire to fly more planes into Toronto, as well as to land in Calgary and Vancouver, was the only airline specifically named by Saretsky when he spoke to a transportation conference last week.

WestJet, which expanded its relationship with Cathay Pacific this year and initiated a partnership with American Airlines, hopes to add similar agreements at the rate of one per quarter until it has deals with the remaining five global regions. Those include the Middle East, Africa and South America.

A deal with Emirates would make sense, said Canaccord Genuity analyst David Tyerman.

“WestJet would obviously like to put more traffic onto their system and interline agreements or code-share agreements with any other airline, especially one that seems to be growing rapidly, has large ambitions etc., would be potentially positive for WestJet because it would add more traffic,” he said.

While Emirates might be feuding with Air Canada, Tyerman doesn’t believe that matters.

“The main thing is just get more traffic into your system,” he said of WestJet. “They’re not an international airline, with the exception of flying into the U.S. and Mexico and the Caribbean.

“It makes sense at this point in their evolution to look at partnerships like this, and even beyond this stage of their evolution.

“It’s a logical thing for them to do, especially with the ambition Emirates has.”

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