Canada’s WestJet Cargo is determined to succeed in a demanding cargo industry. Executive vice-president Kirsten de Bruijn tells more to Air Cargo Management.
Airline Cargo Management: What are the current strategies and initiatives in place at WestJet Cargo to enhance cargo capacity and meet growing demands?
Kirsten de Bruijn: WestJet Cargo employs multifaceted strategies to enhance cargo capacity and meet the growing demands in the air cargo industry. We are expanding our portfolio with charter services, actively seeking long-term partnerships with airlines that complement our network, exploring the establishment of multiple hubs to connect Canada and South America, and catering to the unique needs of Canadian territories.
By leveraging intelligent digital support for accurate capacity assessment, we prioritise infrastructure development, digitisation, talent investment, and product enhancement to drive operational efficiency. Through these initiatives, we are well-positioned to excel in the air cargo industry, delivering exceptional service, fostering innovation, and embracing new growth opportunities.
How are you leveraging digital solutions and technology to optimise efficiencies?
Our recent renewal of the SKYPALLET contract with Wiremind has paved the way for further digital collaboration, including a Proof of Concept (PoC) initiated in April 2023. Wiremind’s AI-driven capacity forecasting mechanism, part of their CARGOSTACK Optimiser solution, provides a more accurate estimate of remaining cargo capacity by considering various factors. This collaboration reflects our commitment to digital transformation, harnessing the power of Machine Learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance operational performance and drive growth.
What can you tell us about your new dedicated freighter fleet, and how do you collaborate with partners to strengthen your cargo network?
We’ve added 737-800 Boeing Converted Freighters (BCF) to our fleet, enabling us to expand our cargo services beyond our existing passenger destinations and belly cargo options. These narrowbody aircraft have been chosen for their compatibility with the existing infrastructure and maintenance capabilities. The cargo capacity of each 737-800 BCF is 23 tonnes, so we can now offer more capacity, more routes, and more often.
We partner with GTA dnata and our various GSA partners, to expand WestJet Cargo’s network and reach in key markets. This includes inaugurating dedicated freighters which operate to Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver, Halifax, Miami, and Los Angeles. These collaborations strengthen service offerings, ensure reliable performance, and meet the growing demands of the Canadian cargo market.
Are you taking any measures to promote eco-friendly practices in air cargo transportation?
As a group we have set ambitious goals to become carbon neutral. On our passenger side, WestJet has already conducted a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) flight, showcasing commitment to sustainable practices. While recognising the limitations in SAF availability in certain locations, we continue to explore opportunities to increase its usage.
What are WestJet Cargo’s long-term goals for growth, innovation, and staying competitive?
Our key goals focus on network expansion, optimising connectivity, and strategic planning.
Our ‘Go West’ strategy and acquisition of Sunwing Airlines in May 2023 is supporting our ambition for network growth and enhancing connectivity. Determining the exact number of freighters in our future fleet is challenging at this point, but of course we are prioritising what that will mean for our cargo footprint and market variables how it will shape our operations.
By the end of the year, we are expecting to share our proposal outlining our focus for the next five years, including considerations such as capacity, freighter types, and routes.
Concrete plans are still being developed, but WestJet Cargo’s commitment to excellence and ongoing discussions demonstrate our determination to thrive in this dynamic cargo industry.