By Jaymie L. White
Special to Wreckhouse Press
STEPHENVILLE – On Mar. 2, 2022, it was announced by WestJet and Sunwing that they reached a deal that would see Sunwing Vacations and Sunwing Airlines acquired by WestJet Group of Companies.
In a news release posted by WestJet, it stated that the transaction was designed to bring together the two groups to help bring new travel options and value to customers and protecting jobs at both companies.
Alexis von Hoensbroech, CEO of WestJet stated, “We are bringing together two highly complementary businesses with powerhouse brands to strengthen our successful leisure business and deliver greater value to our guests. This combination brings together Canada’s two original low-cost carriers and positions us to accelerate growth in value-oriented travel, already the fastest growing segment of the airline market. It creates new opportunities for our people, our operational partners and supports the recovery from a global pandemic that has been particularly challenging for the Canadian travel and tourism industry including local airports and businesses we work closely with.”
In response to email inquiries, Sunwing Media shared the following statement.
“The transaction will help us deliver new travel options and greater value for Canadian travellers, who will have access to more competitive airfares and more affordable vacation packages to a wider variety of destinations than ever before. The combination will enable both companies to protect and create jobs and rebuild strength in the Canadian travel industry at a critical time. Following the close of the transaction, a new tour operating business unit will be created under the WestJet Group, to include both Sunwing Vacations and WestJet Vacations Inc., and will be led by Sunwing CEO Stephen Hunter.”
Sunwing Media added that the transaction would have made sense for Sunwing even before COVID-19, but it most definitely makes sense now given how hard the carrier was hit throughout the pandemic.
“This is about driving scale and growth by bringing together Sunwing’s tour operator expertise with WestJet’s successful airline. It became abundantly clear that our reputation for innovative vacation packages would be strengthened by joining forces with a like-minded Canadian company with a well-established scheduled airline service. With WestJet, we have found that partner.”
As part of the deal, Sunwing will no longer require the pandemic-related Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) that it obtained from the Canadian government in 2021, and it will be fully repaid once the deal comes to a close. The deal, which is subject to regulatory approvals, is anticipated to close late in 2022, and Sunwing Media said they remain committed to their domestic flight program for the summer which includes the Stephenville flights that were announced previously, a decision that Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose hopes will mean more routes to and from Stephenville.
“I certainly hope so,” said Rose. “No guarantee on that, but when an airline such as WestJet, who’s more of a scheduled commercial passenger airline, purchases Sunwing, which is more of a charter/destination point airline, the big benefit there is Sunwing actually operates out of Stephenville. So with the purchasing of Sunwing, WestJet may see that as an opportunity to expand its WestJet code, which would be very beneficial to Stephenville and Sunwing. So it’s my hope, and I did speak to someone in the airline industry, and they felt it could be beneficial, but you never know until it all rolls out. I remain positive that it’s a good thing. My hope is that we may see more service from the Sunwing/WestJet conglomeration.”
Sunwing is currently offering seats on scheduled flights to the Stephenville airport from Toronto scheduled to start later this year. Meanwhile the deal for the sale of the airport to the Dymond Group of companies has yet to finalize.