WestJet Expands To Asia, With Calgary To Tokyo Route

WestJet Expands To Asia, With Calgary To Tokyo Route

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This is kind of fun, though I’m curious to see how long it lasts…

WestJet will fly from Calgary to Tokyo as of April 2023

WestJet has announced plans to launch service to Asia. Specifically, as of April 30, 2023, the airline will fly 3x weekly between Calgary (YYC) and Tokyo (NRT). The flight will operate with the following schedule:

WS80 Calgary to Tokyo departing 6:55PM arriving 8:00PM (+1 day)
WS81 Tokyo to Calgary departing 10:00PM arriving 4:00PM

The 4,949-mile flight is blocked at 10hr5min to Japan, and 9hr to Canada. The flight to Japan will operate on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, while the flight to Canada will operate on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

The airline will use a Boeing 787-9 for the route, featuring 320 seats. This includes 16 business class seats, 28 premium economy seats, and 276 economy class seats.

WestJet Boeing 787 business class

For context, this announcement follows WestJet recently going all-in on Alberta, promising to significantly expand its presence at Calgary Airport. This is thanks to a new partnership with the government of Alberta.

Here’s how Danielle Smith, Premier of Alberta, describes this new route:

“The Government of Alberta congratulates Calgary and WestJet, and believes this is a major announcement for our province. Alberta is opening more to the world. We are excited to see the agreement from October result in billions of new investment come into Calgary. New routes are opening our province to major cities throughout the globe. We look forward to more good news like this in the future and remain committed to growing Alberta’s aviation and tourism sector in the future.”

This new service to Asia complements WestJet’s other Boeing 787 service in the summer of 2023, as the airline will fly its flagship aircraft from Calgary to Barcelona, Dublin, Edinburgh, London, and Paris.

WestJet will fly from Calgary to Tokyo

Will WestJet be able to make Asia service work?

I like WestJet, though there’s no denying that Canadian aviation is complicated. Canada is huge and sparsely populated, and Air Canada is Canada’s only “true” global airline. Then you have a growing number of ultra low cost carriers, which are operating point-to-point routes in Canada’s biggest markets, putting downward pressure on fares.

WestJet seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, and wants to be all things to all people. Several years ago WestJet started flying Boeing 787s. I can’t help but feel like that’s not working out so great — the airline first placed a firm order for 10 787s with 10 options, but since then, the order has been reduced to a total of just seven of the jets.

The airline has primarily been operating these 787s to destinations that are popular with Canadians on holiday, primarily to Europe in summer, and also to Hawaii in winter.

It sure seems like WestJet will have an uphill battle flying to Tokyo:

  • 3x weekly service isn’t exactly going to be competitive for business travelers who need frequencies
  • While there’s no doubt some leisure demand for this route, that’s also pretty seasonal
  • WestJet’s 787s are in a pretty leisure-oriented configuration, with few business class seats, and that’s where money is generally made on transpacific flights
  • While WestJet has a partnership with Japan Airlines, the flight is timed so that connection opportunities out of Tokyo will be limited, with the exception of a few flights to Southeast Asia

Maybe cargo will be lucrative on the route, but it seems to me like odds are stacked against the airline here. Never mind that WestJet doesn’t really have enough planes to expand in Asia, since there are only a total of seven 787s, and they’re mostly used for Europe flights.

Will WestJet be able to make Tokyo flights work?

Bottom line

WestJet will be expanding to Asia, as the airline will fly 3x weekly between Calgary and Tokyo as of April 2023. It’s cool to see WestJet finally add Asia to its route network, though I’m skeptical of the viability of this route, and how long it will last.

What do you make of WestJet’s Calgary to Tokyo route?

Conversations (19)
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  1. Mike Guest

    I agree with Bob. Unless your final destination is Tokyo, you won't be getting a flight to anywhere else, certainly not domestically. Why didn't they consider using Haneda to make it competitive with Air Canada, which is currently only using Narita?

  2. Bob Guest

    Wow, that's a horrible arrival time for NRT. As you mentioned, really no JL connections that late and transportation to Tokyo gets really infrequent that late as well. Seems it wasn't very well thought out.

  3. Super VC10 Guest

    WestJet is looking west, and saying Buh-Bye to those of us in Nova Scotia who regularly fly east. According to Simple Flying:
    "... while Halifax to Dublin, Glasgow, London Gatwick, and Paris CDG... ran in summer 2022, they won't return next year."

  4. Ethan Guest

    They just try to get some quick bucks from Japan reopening imo.

  5. Tod Guest

    2500$ each way for GW. Non-stop. I was excited to see the route. But not the price.

  6. Bernard C H Szeto Guest

    Don’t forget they have partnership with Delta. They can get Delta feed, especially from SLC!

  7. S_LEE Member

    Westjet's also in talks with ICN to launch service to Seoul. I agree with Ben that Westjet may not have enough 787 fleet to serve all the routes, but ICN may be better than NRT for them because Korean Air already has codeshares with Westjet(which makes it a lot easier to make connections via ICN), and Delta has JV with Korean Air, and so does Westjet with Delta.
    Maybe they can expand the transpacific JV between DL-KE to DL-KE-WS.

  8. Evan Guest

    How much are the air fares?

    1. Cedric Guest

      For the flights are am checking from YUL next July, they are currently undercuting AC by a bit in business, but same in economy...but google shows mostly 2 stops, YYC and YYZ...just a few dates with one stop in YYC. There is lots of demande for Japan now, but I'm not sure this will be viable in the long run. Heck I'm surprized AC still operates the YUL-NRT flight.

  9. yyc Guest

    My wish came true! I would definitely take advantage of this! As for schedule, this is no different to one of ANA's flights pre-pandemic between YVR and HND. I remember arriving at night, stayed at a capsule hotel in the airport and flew out the next morning onward to my final destination.

    1. DenB Diamond

      this is only attractive to a hub-captive. WS will have to do lots of other difficult things to make this attractive to wider market

  10. Tim Dunn Diamond

    They should be able to make this work just based on the configuration of their 787-9s which are high density.
    Canadian airlines do have a geographic advantage in being able to connect passengers to the US so they are tapping into the US market.
    Narita is not as valuable as Haneda but the Japan to N. America market will return - it will just take longer than Europe.

  11. Bob Guest

    NRT arriv at 8pm is tough. For Tokyo bound pax, it means getting to Tokyo proper at around 10pm at the earliest. For others connecting, that means spending 1 night layover. I do hope Westjet can make it work. West coast to Tokyo routes are expensive and more competition is better IMO.

  12. Jason Guest

    With an 8PM arrival time into Tokyo, there are, as of now, NO flights on Japan Airlines leaving after that time. Until the next morning. No connectivity. So this flight will live/ die based on willingness of people to fly to/ from Calgary and Canada/USA. Unless, of course, Japan Airlines decides to add a bank of flights to connect solely to / from this flight on a seasonal, non-daily basis. Doubtful. TBD and good luck!

  13. DLPTATL Diamond

    Would love if this route becomes a sweet spot to earn Delta MQD's, other than some strange routings on AeroMexico, there are few lucrative options out there.

  14. DenB Diamond

    No matter how skeptical you are, Ben, I'm more skeptical. "Identity crisis" is right. Far too much of Westjet's DNA is Low Cost Carrier. Factions within the company keep trying to change this, but they hit roadblocks and despite the lipstick, the pig ends up with no loyalty program, no alliance membership. I suspect they do have something in place for connectivity in Asia, to be announced soon, but so what? You can only get...

    No matter how skeptical you are, Ben, I'm more skeptical. "Identity crisis" is right. Far too much of Westjet's DNA is Low Cost Carrier. Factions within the company keep trying to change this, but they hit roadblocks and despite the lipstick, the pig ends up with no loyalty program, no alliance membership. I suspect they do have something in place for connectivity in Asia, to be announced soon, but so what? You can only get tickets for cash, not with any program's points. Air Canada's Vancouver-Bangkok route is similarly interesting, maybe more promising. At the end of the day, though, I wouldn't fly either.

    1. john Guest

      They're the Canadian JetBlue at this point.

    2. Kevin B Guest

      For $311 r/t from Seattle I had to book it

  15. Christian Guest

    I thought WestJet had a codeshare partnership with Japan Airlines? Maybe Japan Airlines will be offering onward domestic connections in Japan.

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Mike Guest

I agree with Bob. Unless your final destination is Tokyo, you won't be getting a flight to anywhere else, certainly not domestically. Why didn't they consider using Haneda to make it competitive with Air Canada, which is currently only using Narita?

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Bob Guest

Wow, that's a horrible arrival time for NRT. As you mentioned, really no JL connections that late and transportation to Tokyo gets really infrequent that late as well. Seems it wasn't very well thought out.

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Kevin B Guest

For $311 r/t from Seattle I had to book it

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