Southwest’s WestJet Codeshare Means A Lot More Than Just Canada

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After being ditched by ATA for that slutty bankruptcy court (I mean, who hasn’t been with her?), it looks like Southwest has found its next dance partner. The airline announced yesterday that it would begin codesharing with Canada’s WestJet next year. This is good news, but it’s more interesting as a symbol of what’s to come than anything else.

In short, nothing was really announced yesterday except for the intent to partner. In fact, it won’t happen for a long time. The release says that the “airlines plan to announce codeshare flight schedules and additional features regarding the partnership by late 2009.” So it’s a long way off.

When it does happen, you can probably expect a similar partnership as to what we saw with ATA back in the day. 08_07_08 southwestwestjetInterline baggage, frequent flier integration, and codesharing will all be part of this deal. What’s different?

Well, there is an interesting little bit noting that “southwest.com will soon become a distribution channel for WestJet’s existing Canadian and transborder flights, providing Customers the opportunity to purchase WestJet’s existing flights via southwest.com.” That IS interesting. So you’ll be able to book WestJet flights through Southwest’s website even if no Southwest flight is involved.

Not even the AirTran/Frontier partnership allows that. They still send you to the other airline’s site for booking. I suppose this seems closest to the Northwest/KLM arrangement. There is no KLM website in the US and there is no Northwest website in Europe. Then again, I doubt that WestJet will ditch their US site entirely.

This clearly seems like a win-win to me. For WestJet, it offers their flights on the most popular airline site in the US. I’m sure Southwest is getting a sweet commission deal out of this, so it’s good news for them as well. Nice little attempt at ancillary revenue, even if it is a pretty small opportunity. (Yeah Canada, I’m talking aboot you.)

So why is this so important? Well, as they mentioned in their blog post, Southwest’s exec team has spoken for years about how they wanted to be able to fly internationally. Though Canada barely counts, this indicates that Southwest now has (or will soon have) the booking capabilities set up to allow for international travel. I’d expect to see codesharing south of the border come up as well. Caribbean? Mexico? It’s coming. Europe? Maybe someday.

And that’s the really big news here. Southwest is no longer caged in the US. The airline is roaming free and is on the prowl.

11 Responses to Southwest’s WestJet Codeshare Means A Lot More Than Just Canada

  1. Xnuiem says:

    Excellent. As someone with a companion pass, a-list, and like 11 Freedom Awards on WN, we will be able to go somewhere, albeit Canada, internationally with those tickets, eventually.

    Which is good since we had to find alternative arrangements to Maui, after the ATA debacle.

  2. I’m very excited to see this partnership happen. At least they didn’t sign an international codeshare that isn’t worth it, like the codeshare between Southwest and Icelandair a few years back. I think the two have a lot to offer each other.

    However, I think sometime in the future Southwest will expand their own branding outside of U.S. borders, rather than just codeshares.

  3. DRG says:

    This is important for WestJet, which doesn’t have brand recognition in the U.S. It was doing fine on U.S. routes with Canadians but not so much with Americans. And AC is very dominant transborder, where it has a UA codeshare relationship in place so even if U.S. originating travellers might prefer a U.S. brand over a foreign one, they still often end up on AC metal.

  4. James H says:

    I agree with DRG: West Jet (WJ)’s business model was inspired directly by SW and their work cultures are a good fit. WJ’s founder recently hailed SW’s model as a way to counter Air Canada (AC)’s lock on the Canadian marketplace (re: higher airfares).

  5. A says:

    My question is, will Westjet start flying to US locations that are more than just warm weather tourist spots? Outside of New York and Los Angeles their route map in the US is arguably a tourist charter airline, and I’d argue the LA & NYC routes are mostly tourists as well.

    I’m not flying to Vegas just to turn around and go to Canada…and I do travel to Canada frequently and happen to prefer Westjet over AC.

    Or, will Southwest start flying north of the border so Americans can tap the Westjet route network up there? Seems more a way for Canadian passengers to have a codeshare option outside of AC/UA and provide little effect on the American wanting to go north.

  6. DRG says:

    Thanks J, but a true Southwest model in Canada is not really possible because of high Canadian taxes and fees. Airport rent impacts landing fees, and the ATSC, Nav Can, GST etc… easily add $100 to a one-way ticket. A $39 fare is not really effective in that environment. I find AC and WestJet usually pretty cost competitive

  7. DRG says:

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    I think the short answer is “yes” The company has wanted to go back into business markets (ie Newark) and I think this will help that.

  8. CF says:

    A – I’m with DRG. I’d expect to see WestJet do more in places where they can connect with Southwest. BWI? Midway? All seem to be good possibilities to me. As for Southwest flying to Canada, I think that’s even further off. One day, I’m sure they will, but it won’t be soon, I’d guess.

  9. CF – Southwest has stated that they are currently in the process of upgrading their computer systems for international travel so that they can fly internationally in the future.

  10. CF says:

    Jonathan – Yep, my understanding is that they’re starting with codesharing, and that required a significant amount of systems upgrading as well. The ultimate goal is to be able to fly internationally, but they aren’t going to dip their toes into that water until they’ve done a codeshare first. Since this codeshare may not even been truly announced until late 2009, we’re looking at a long ways off before any Canyon Blue planes cross the border.

  11. Stacy Richardson says:

    Southwest: they are now free to move about the continent.

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