Pop quiz: What's Canada's second-largest airline?
If you read this blog, you probably know the answer. It's Calgary-based WestJet Airlines, an almost 20-year-old carrier with some big expansion plans. Already it and its regional subsidiary, WestJet Encore, have 125 aircraft. WestJet flies Boeing 737s, while Encore flies Bombardier Q400 turboprops.
Historically the business strategy has been about taking Canadians to warm-weather winter locales. But that is changing. Later this year, WestJet will start flying four Boeing 767 aircraft, all of which are capable of flying 11 hours. WestJet hasn't said where they will be deployed after some initial runs to Hawaii and within Canada, but everyone thinks they're headed to Europe, at least in the beginning.
I was in Calgary earlier this week at headquarters. To read the juicy information from my visit, you'll have to subscribe to Aviation Week. (The magazine pay my bills.)
But I can tell you I found the airline delightfully quirky. Despite having 11,000 employees, WestJet seems to have held onto its start-up culture. One interesting tidbit: Regular workers have cubicles by the window looking out onto Calgary International Airport. That puts the top executives, including CEO Gregg Saretsky, in the interior of the building. The executives don't even have particularly large offices and because they have glass windows looking out onto the cubicles, everyone can see what they're doing.
WestJet's shtick is that everyone pitches in. Saretsky tells me that when he flies, he likes to help clean the airplane when it lands. He says he even puts on gloves.
I'm afraid I'm busy today with Aviation Week assignments, so I can't share much more. But here are some photographs from WestJet headquarters you might find amusing.