Sunday, December 12, 2010

WestJet signs interline pact with British Airways

OTTAWA, Dec 8 (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd (WJA.TO), Canada's second-biggest airline, confirmed on Wednesday that it has signed an agreement that will allow passengers traveling on British Airways (BAY.L) to connect to WestJet's network.

The so-called inbound interline agreement would advance WestJet efforts to expand beyond its low-budget roots, as it seeks new sources of revenue and profit, while trying to attract lucrative business passengers.

The agreement will allow passengers and their luggage to easily connect from a British Airways flight to WestJet planes in Canada on one itinerary.

"Yes we do have a deal with BA, but seats won't go on sale until early new year. Will have more details then," WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer said in an email.

The deal is not deemed to be material, Palmer said.

PI Financial Corp analyst Chris Murray said WestJet told him that it had agreed not to disclose the deal earlier to give British Airways time to organize marketing and issue a press release.

WestJet told Reuters that interline deals are not typically material and the Calgary-based company would not issue a press release unless there was a significant element to the tie-up.

"For example, we announced AA (American Airlines) because it was our first American partner," Palmer wrote.

Murray said the deal is a positive and could boost the Calgary-based company's stock.

"British Airways has always remained the most significant possible partner for WestJet in our opinion, given the travel patterns of Canadians and the relative size the British market represents for travel to Canada," Murray wrote.

"At the company's recent investor day in June 2010 it provided details showing British Airways as the single largest potential partner it could have of any other single carrier."

There was no discussion of any WestJet-BA alliance or partnership plans, Murray wrote.

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