WestJet was founded in 1996 by Clive Beddoe, Mark Hill, Tim Morgan and Donald
Bell, four Calgary entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity to provide low-fare air
travel across western Canada. Through researching other successful airlines in
North America - and in particular low-cost carriers from throughout the
continent - the team followed the primary examples of Southwest Airlines and
Morris Air and determined that a similar concept could be successful in Western
Over the subsequent months, the team worked to develop a comprehensive
business plan and financial model. With this information in hand, a number of
local business people were approached and within 30 days the needed capital was
raised. After purchasing the three original Boeing 737-200 aircraft, a second
offering to retail and institutional investors was completed in January 1996,
raising the necessary capital to commence operations.
On February 29, 1996, the airline started flight operations with 220
employees and three aircraft to the cities of Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary,
Edmonton and Winnipeg. Since that time, the company has continued to expand,
bringing more western cities into WestJet's world. In 1996, WestJet added
Victoria, Regina and Saskatoon to its route network. In 1997, WestJet began
service to Abbotsford/Fraser Valley, and in 1999 WestJet added Thunder Bay,
Prince George and Grande Prairie to its service area.
WestJet achieved a major milestone when in July 1999 it completed its Initial
Public Offering of 2.5 million common shares. It was an exciting day for all
WestJetters, representing the achievement of a key business goal and raising the
necessary capital for expansion of the company into the coming years. With the
help of lead underwriters CIBC World Markets and the dedicated executive team,
WestJet has made a successful transition to a public company. The capital raised
from the offering has been used for the purchase of additional aircraft, as well
as the building of new Head Office and Hangar facilities in Calgary, in order to
meet the needs of the company's expanding workforce.
1999 saw unprecedented change and restructuring in the airline industry in
Canada, offering a window of opportunity for WestJet to expand its service
beyond its current route structure. In December 1999, WestJet announced that it
would be extending its successful low-fare airline across Canada. Between March
and June 2000, the company added service to the Eastern Canadian cities of
Hamilton, Moncton and Ottawa, creating an eastern network with Hamilton as the
In 2000, WestJet's founders were honoured as 'The Ernst & Young Entrepreneur
of the Year' for Canada, in recognition of the contributions they have made to
Canadian travellers and the lives of all of WestJet's people and shareholders.
In 2001, WestJet added new service to Fort McMurray, Comox and limited addition
flights to Brandon. In 2001, WestJet also added its first four Next-Generation
Boeing 737-700 aircraft. Also, in 2001, the team of founders received an
International Entrepreneurship award for Outstanding Teamwork.
In 2002, WestJet added service to two new Ontario destinations, London and
Toronto. In February of 2002, the corporation successfully offered three million
common shares yielding net proceeds of $78.9 million. The proceeds will fund
aircraft additions, spare parts and a third flight simulator. In 2002, WestJet
was named one of Canada's top 100 employers.
In 2003, WestJet added service to the new markets of Halifax, Windsor,
Montreal, St. John's and Gander.
The airline operates a fleet of Boeing aircraft featuring new Next-Generation
737 aircraft with leather seats and more legroom. Transborder service commenced
in the fall of 2004 to the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Fort
Lauderdale, Tampa, Orlando and New York. Service to Palm Springs, Maui, Honolulu
and Fort Myers (seasonal) began in 2005.
After ten years in business, WestJet employs over 5,500 people and has
carried over 9.4 million guests to its 23 Canadian destinations of Victoria,
Comox, Vancouver, Abbotsford/Fraser Valley, Prince George, Kelowna, Grande
Prairie, Calgary, Edmonton, Fort McMurray, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Thunder
Bay, London, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Moncton, Charlottetown,
Halifax and St. John's, and its10 American destinations of Honolulu, Maui, Los
Angeles, Palm Springs (seasonal), Las Vegas, Phoenix (seasonal), Tampa, Orlando,
Fort Myers (seasonal) and Fort Lauderdale; with service to West Palm Beach
(seasonal) and Nassau, Bahamas commencing in October and November 2006,
respectively. WestJet is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the
symbols WJA and WJA.A.