Calgary travellers concerned about higher prices, less options as WestJet merges Sunwing Airlines with mainline business

Some Calgary travellers are concerned about WestJet’s plan to wind down Sunwing Airlines and integrate it into its mainline business.

“My family and I, we fly lots, and having less options is usually never a good thing,” said Blake Venechuk, who has four kids.

Less than two months after WestJet completed its acquisition of Sunwing, it’s planning to shut down the airline.

The move is part of WestJet’s plan to streamline operations amid fierce competition.

Sunwing will be integrated into WestJet within two years.

“It seems like the prices are only getting more expensive and if they eliminate the competition, I can’t believe that it’s going to make prices any more affordable for Canadians,” Venechuk said.

Just last week, West announced it’s doing the same with Swoop Airlines by the Fall.

With two low-cost carriers on the way out, some travellers at Calgary International Airport are re-thinking their future vacation plans.

“That means you’re restricted to all those airlines and you don’t have a lot of options … that might drive the price of ticket up,” said Rubabat Oseni.

Robert Dapp, another traveller, added, “With, you know, the competitiveness in Canada and everything, it seems like the airlines are charging a fair amount for even very short trips.”

John Gradek, a lecturer at McGill University’s aviation management program, says travellers will likely see fewer flight options going forward as WestJet looks to reduce redundancies.

“Carriers that were operating the same route on the same day in the same city, you know, that’s not going to happen,” he said.

“Rather than having two flights going from Toronto to Montego Bay or two flights going from Calgary to Phoenix, operated by two separate carriers, the odds are, those services will be reduced.”

Gradek says the federal government, which oversees competitive behaviour and airline practices, will have a role to play.

“There’s going to be some attention being paid by the federal government on the extent to which services are being reduced and flights are being consolidated and the impact of this consolidation on fares, so it’s not over yet,” he said.

The federal government approved WestJet’s takeover of Sunwing Vacations and Sunwing Airlines in March, despite a warning from the Competition Bureau that the purchase would likely result in higher prices and decreased services, especially around package deals.

WestJet confirmed the upcoming integration of Sunwing Airlines but says Sunwing Vacations will continue to operate as its own brand under the WestJet banner, suggesting WestJet planes could still be flying Sunwing packages.

The Calgary-based airline says it’s immediate focus remains on weaving Swoop into the company’s operations.

Sunwing did not respond to CTV News’ request for comment on Sunday.  

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