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Private equity firm buys Canada’s second-largest airline

May 16, 2019 Headline News No Comments Email Email

A private equity investment firm is buying Canada’s second-biggest airline, WestJet, a codeshare partner of Qantas which provides scheduled and charter air service to more than 100 destinations in Canada, the US, Europe, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.

A statement about the purchase said WestJet operated to “175 destinations in over 20 countries through our airline partnerships”.  It would operate as a privately held company after the purchase.

WestJet, founded in 1996, employs 13,000 people and is the largest Canadian air carrier after Air Canada. It does not belong to any airline alliance.

WestJet’s fleet consists of over 170 aircraft and it has a lot of Boeing 737 MAX planes on order. There are currently 13 MAX 8s in WestJet’s fleet; they are currently grounded along with all other MAX aircraft worldwide. WestJet has 43 more MAX planes to come – the MAX 7, MAX 8 and MAX 10 – with deliveries due to start in 2021.

The airline’s buyer is Onex, founded in 1984, which manages and invests capital on behalf of investors from around the world. Onex says it has about CAD 31 billion of assets under management, including Onex’ CAD 6.6 billion of shareholder capital.

“Since our first flight in 1996, WestJet has been singularly focused on providing better options for the Canadian travelling public and this transaction retains that commitment,” WestJet’s founder and chairman Clive Beddoe stated.

“I am particularly pleased that WestJet will remain headquartered in Calgary and will continue to build on the success that our 14,000 WestJetters have created. Onex’ aerospace experience, history of positive employee relations and long-term orientation makes it an ideal partner for WestJetters, and I am excited about our future.”

Tawfiq Popatia, a managing director at Onex, described WestJet as one of Canada’s strongest brands.

A WestJet Boeing 737-800 landing in Vancouver

“We have tremendous respect for the business that Clive Beddoe and all WestJetters have built over the years. WestJet is renowned internationally for its unparalleled guest experience and employee culture. We’re thrilled to be partnering with WestJetters and continuing this remarkable Canadian success story.”

WestJet’s president and chief executive, Ed Sims, said the airline was “delighted to continue the journey of building an airline based on a growing network, providing competitive airfares and more choice to, from and within Canada, for communities large and small. Integral to this relationship is a commitment to our employees, and our unique ownership-driven culture.”

Written by Peter Needham

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