WestJet was founded in 1996 by Clive Beddoe and a team of like-minded partners, who believed that just because you pay less for your flight, doesn’t mean you should get less. WestJet was based on the low-cost carrier business model pioneered by Southwest Airlines and Morris Air in the United States.
The first commercial flight of the airline took place on the 29th of February, 1996, using a Boeing 737.
First routes were Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Vancouver and Winnipeg, while the fleet numbered three Boeing 737-200s.
In July, 1999, the airline went public, offering 1.5 million shares at $10 per share starting price.
Thunder Bay, Grande Prairie, and Prince George joined the network later that year.
Between 2000 and 2009, WestJet’s local market share managed to rise from 7% to 36%, while Air Canada fell from 77% to 57% during the same period.
In 2005, WestJet added seven new destinations covering a total of 33 destinations (23 Canadian and 10 U.S).
Beginning in 2005, WestJet was named one of Canada´s Most Admired Corporate Culture and maintained it for several years.
In the following years, WestJet saw a steady growth, reporting its best quarterly profit to that date in late October, 2006 – C$52.8 million.
In 2006, WestJet launches affordable and flexible flight and vacation packages “WestJetVacations”.
In 2007, WestJet demonstrates its care for the community introducing WestJet Cares for Kids its community investment program.
That same year, WestJet launches the electronic boarding pass in North America, becoming the first airline in North America that offers that feature.
In 2008, Mediacorp Canada named WestJet one of Alberta´s Top Employers.
In 2009, WestJet and WestJet Vacations continue growing and announce 13 more destinations.
On a poll conducted by Léger Marketing, WestJet was found to be Canada´s preferred airline.
In 2010, WestJet ofers several launches its RBC MasterCard and WestJet Frequent Guest Program and the first code-share agreement with Cathay Pacific.
Also in 2010, WestJet received 2 awards at the World Airline Awards: 1st Place in the Airline Staff Service Excellence and 2nd Place in the Best Low Cost Airline.
In 2011, continues WestJet growth with 11 interline agreements and three code share partner increasing its network traffic.
In 2011, WestJet gets another award: J.D. Power 2011 Customer Service Champion award, being the only of the two Canadian companies to receive it.
In 2012, West Jet introduces the self-serve baggage tagging on non-stop transborder flights to allow guest to print their own baggage tags when they arrive at the airport.
According to Harris/Decima EquiTrend Study in 2012, WestJet and WestJet Vacations received the highest brand equity scores in three measures: familiarity; perceptions of quality and consideration.
In 2012, Aviation Week ranked WestJet among the top 10 international airlines. According to that ranking WestJet is the only Canadian airline and one of two North American Airlines to appear on the list that year.
In 2013, WestJet decides to purchase 65 MAX 7 and 40 MAX 8 aircraft from Boeing, which promise to offer increased fuel efficiency and enhanced in-cabin amenities, lower operating costs, and a remarkable in-flight guest experience. WestJet also announces this year a code-sharing on American Airlines flights providing 3 round-trip flights per day between Calgary and Dallas-Fort.
Since 2013, WestJet offers new possibilities to smaller communities offering low cost flights across western Canada with the launch of WestJet Encore and its new fleet of Bombardier Q400 NextGen aircraft.
In 2014, WestJet announced that it would acquire wide-body aircraft to operate long-haul international routes. In late June, WestJet announced that the wide-body aircraft fleet would consist of four Boeing 767-300ER that have been retired from Qantas, reconfigured and refurbished before WestJet would introduce them into service.
On October 22, 2015, WestJet introduced into service its first wide-body aircraft, a Boeing 767-300ER. The inaugural revenue flight of the Boeing 767-300ER aircraft was the from Toronto to Calgary with more than 200 passengers on board.
In Spring 2016, the fourth and final wide-body aircraft arrived to launch the first B767 transatlantic destination, WestJet’s new service to London Gatwick. Starting January 2017, WestJet will continue to serve the seasonal winter services Edmonton – Maui, Calgary – Maui, and Calgary – Honolulu with the 767-300ER aircraft.
In September 2017, WestJet received its first Boeing B737 MAX 8 aircraft, becoming the first Canadian airline to take delivery of this new, fuel-efficient type of aircraft.
In May 2018, WestJet took another step in its mission to become a truly global airline with the inauguration of the first route to mainland Europe, between Halifax Stanfield International Airport and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
In June 2018, WestJet received its first Boeing B737 MAX 8 plane in their new livery, unveiled together with its new logo and cabin interior, including new Premium Economy cabin to replace the Plus seats and the WestJet’s first-ever Business Class cabin available on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.
In January 2019, WestJet received the first of ten Boeing B787-9 Dreamliners, with a second aircraft due to be delivered in February. The new aircraft will serve three new intercontinental routes from Calgary to London Gatwick, Dublin, and Paris, yet another step in the transformation into a global network airline.
In 2020, WestJet was forced to take a series of measures when faced with an unprecedented decline in demand for flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic: shut down all international flights on March 17, reduced the frequency of domestic flights, laid off more than 5,00 employees, retired its fleet of Boeing 767-300ERs and737-600s, reinforced hygiene measures in place for a safe travel journey.
In January 2021, WestJet’s Boeing B737 MAX aircraft resumed passenger service after Transport Canada had reopened the skies to commercial service on the Boeing B737 MAX aircraft. WestJet implemented a phased and transparent approach to the return to service of the Boeing MAX aircraft by creating a variety of resources to assist guests in feeling comfortable.
In June 2021, WestJet’s domestic network was restored to its pre-COVID level but was also expanded with 11 new domestic routes across Western Canada. In August, the airline also expanded its international network with a new European destination, Amsterdam.
No deadly incident involving the airline has been recorded so far.