Bloomberg News

WestJet Alliances At Least 2 Years Away, Durfy Says

August 31, 2006

WestJet Airlines Ltd. (WJA), Canada's second-largest carrier, won't join a global airline network such as Oneworld until at least 2008 because the company must first upgrade its reservation system.

It's ``two years away before you would see any type of alliance,'' Sean Durfy, executive vice-president of marketing, sales and airports, said in an interview. The booking system, also adopted by Australia's Virgin Blue, should be working by 2007, WestJet has said.

WestJet is getting the new system so it can link itself to those of other airlines, giving the carrier more access to their networks. Joining Oneworld would give WestJet up to eight partners, including AMR Corp. (AAMRQ:US)'s American Airlines and British Airways Plc.

WestJet is in ``preliminary'' talks to join Oneworld to gain the international partners to compete with larger rival Air Canada, the Globe and Mail reported today. Air Canada is part of the Star Alliance of airlines, the largest one at 18 members.

``We've been talking with all sorts of partners,'' Durfy said. ``We've talked to Oneworld, Cathay, Japan Airlines, China Airlines, we've talked to everybody.''

WestJet shares rose 3 cents to C$9.78 at 4:10 p.m. on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The stock has fallen 12 percent in the past year.

Oneworld

Oneworld spokesman Michael Blunt declined to confirm whether the alliance is in talks with Calgary-based WestJet. Oneworld, which plans to expand its network in China, will look at moving into Canada over the ``longer term,'' he said in a telephone interview today.

``Any airline joining has to be able to offer the full range of Oneworld services and benefits, and those include things like through check-ins from one airline to another and frequent-flier benefits extended throughout the alliance network,'' Blunt said.

WestJet won't change the way it operates just to meet the criteria of an alliance and may choose to be ``a friend of Oneworld'' or an affiliate rather than a full-fledged member, Durfy said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Doug Alexander in Toronto at dalexander3@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David Scanlan at dscanlan@bloomberg.net.


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