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Feb 6, 2019

WestJet assessing airport taxis, weight of magazines to battle fuel costs, CEO says

WestJet CEO Ed Sims: Even 'the weight of our in-flight magazine' has impact on fuel costs

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WestJet Airlines Ltd. (WJA.TO) has been assessing everything from how it taxis aircraft to the weight of its in-flight magazines in order to find cost-savings as it contends with volatile fuel prices.

The airline’s chief executive, Ed Sims, said a management team devoted to cutting fuel costs was started last April and identified about $64 million in savings for 2018, and is targeting another $200 million by 2020.

“We’ve looked at the way we taxi our aircraft, the way we approach our various airports, how we can remove what we call tracked miles from aircraft approaches, [and] how we can reduce weight on aircraft,” Sims told BNN Bloomberg’s Paul Bagnell on Wednesday.

“Even simple procedures – simple issues – like the weight of our in-flight magazine can have a material effect on fuel consumption. So this is very far-reaching across the whole airline. The team has applied themselves to every operating procedure.”

Sims’ comments come a day after the Calgary-based airline reported fourth-quarter results, which showed that surging jet fuel prices dented its profit as net earnings fell 39 per cent year over year. Passenger revenue grew seven per cent last quarter, compared to the same period a year earlier, but fuel costs rose 21 per cent to $304.9 million, WestJet said, cancelling out some of the gains. 

2019 will be better but likely 'not good enough' for WestJet: Analyst

Shares of WestJet are getting a lift after the nation's second-largest air carrier posted a fourth quarter profit beat. Raymond James analyst Ben Cherniavsky talks about the latest results in the context of a long decline for the stock.

Sims added the airline is seeking ways to boost growth beyond cost cuts, and is focused on branded fares and data analytics to support that mission.

“We’re certainly not putting our chests out at the moment. We think there’s a heck of a lot of heavy lifting left to do,” Sims said.

“Cost-cutting eventually will run out of runway, and it’s really going to be our ability to justify the value for money in every fare we sell that is going to be critical for those airlines whose business models need to be robust enough to withstand whatever might happen in the economy.”

With files from The Canadian Press