New horizons

WestJet lands service between DFW and Calgary

When WestJet, Canada’s second largest airline, landed its inaugural flight from Calgary to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, the company’s Vice President of Guest Services Ed Baklor was the last passenger off the Next-Generation 737 aircraft. He was just doing his job.

“I was onboard with gloves on and picking (things) out of the seatback pockets and just making sure the plane is clean for all of you for your first WestJet flight up to Calgary,” Baklor said. “The secret to our success is that laser focus on cost and amazing, caring service.”

WestJet, a low-cost airline, started in 1996 with three 737-200’s and 200 employees with five destinations.

“Today we have 103 Next Generation 737’s,” Baklor said. “We have over 9,000 WestJetters – that is what we call ourselves – and 86 percent of them are stockholders in the company. We are very proud of our organization, and that keeps us one of the most profitable airlines in … the world. We fly to 85 cities in 18 different countries, and we groom our own airplanes. That’s one of the ways we keep our costs down.

“We have the distinction of being Canada’s preferred airline. Our flight attendants have been voted the best by the aviation website

“There is a very strong connection between the Province of Alberta and the State of Texas, vibrant energy sectors and a very strong focus on the entrepreneurial spirit,” Baklor said. “It bodes well for a long-term relationship between our airline and DFW.”

Both leisure and business travelers were on WestJet’s first flights which will continue seven days a week.

“It’s attractive for the business traveler due in part because of our partnership with American Airlines,” Baklor said. “WestJet has codeshare arrangements with American Airlines to combine WestJet and American. We now have three nonstop flights between Calgary and Dallas. WestJet can also benefit from American’s vast network. About half of our travelers today are traveling to other destinations through DFW. American Airlines will also be able to access WestJet’s large network throughout the 34 destinations we fly throughout Canada. Travelers can earn rewards on both airlines.”

The Honorable Paula Caldwell St-Onge, the Consul General of Canada for South Central United States is stationed in Dallas and attended the festivities.

“The combination of these two organizations is very fitting and is an example of the vibrant, growing relationship we have,” St-Onge said. “Last year we had about a million visitors, Canadian and Texas, traveling to each other’s region. We spend over $600 million locally. We really, truly are each other’s best friends and neighbors and partners. We are each other’s best business partners.

“Air linkage between countries is what really demonstrates when things are growing. We now have 12 flights a day to Canada to four major cities: Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, and Montreal, and we’re growing.”

DFW’s Air Service Development Team goes out and recruits airlines from all over the world. Luis E. Perez is the airport’s vice president for air service development.

“WestJet is a perfect fit for DFW, and their new service fits in well here with their low fares and high level of service,” said Executive Vice President for Government and Stakeholders Affairs at DFW Airport Phil Ritter. “It makes them a natural to be here at Terminal E. We think the passengers from our part of the country are really going to enjoy the connectivity up to Calgary and the entire Northwest Region.

“This gives us our eighth new passenger airline in just two years,” he said. “We now have 52 international destinations and 148 domestic destinations. That helps our airport but more importantly, it helps our region grow economically. It helps conventions, tourism, and economic development. With more choices, trade and tourism will expand between the U.S. and Canada.”

Sisters Arati Shrestha and Amita Franklin were on their way to Calgary to visit an aunt they had not seen for eight years.

“It’s our first time to Calgary, and we were looking it up online and (WestJet) had a very good deal and is nonstop from here to Calgary,” Shrestha said. “I got (tickets) two weeks ago, and I was expecting it to be high price, but the price was very good.”

Hopefully, when they boarded the aircraft, they weren’t bothered by trash that a vice president of WestJet might have missed on his appointed rounds onboard the aircraft bound for Calgary.

About the Author

Elaine Paniszczyn
Elaine Paniszczyn earned a degree in Journalism with English as a second major from East Texas A&M in Commerce. She taught journalism in Midland and Lewisville for 23 years. After retiring last year, she put her skills to work for Rambler Newspapers. Her pastimes are reading, dancing, traveling, and spending time with friends and her dog Prissy.