Canada’s WestJet took off from Calgary to Rome Fiumicino on May 7th. The route, its fifth from its Alberta hub to Europe, is its longest across its whole network this summer. The launch came days after WestJet passed the 500-departures-in-one-day milestone, the first time it has done so in over two years.
Calgary non-stop to Rome
Calgary and Rome, some 5,265-mile (8,472km) apart, are now connected non-stop. The long route operates 3x weekly from June onwards. The last flight to Italy is on October 29th, just as airlines switch to winter schedules.
WestJet uses its only widebody type, the B787-9. These have 320 seats, with 16 fully flat business seats, together with 28 seats in premium economy and 276 in economy. The schedule based on June is as follows, with all times local:
- Calgary to Rome: WS32, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, 18:20-11:55+1 (9h 35m block time)
- Rome to Calgary: WS33, Thursday, Friday, Sunday, 13:55-16:19 (10h 24m)
Rome is WestJet’s fifth European route from Calgary. It joins London Gatwick (started May 2016, with the appropriate flight number WS1), Paris CDG (May 2019), Dublin (June 2019), and Heathrow (March 2022).
Fairly low point-to-point demand
Demand between Calgary and Rome is minimal for a long route that’s expensive to operate. Booking data shows that it had around 13,000 passengers in 2019, the last normal year. That’s much more reflective of ‘true’ demand than 2020 and 2021.
WestJet will, of course, stimulate point-to-point demand from a non-stop offering, promotions, and some good fares. But to achieve strong seat load factors, it’ll also need to capture traffic that transit over its Calgary hub.
WestJet’s first flight to Rome. It took 9h 24m. Image: Flightradar24 .
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Analysis of schedules shows that 12 destinations are available on a two-way basis, as shown in the map below. (There’s little point being available in only one direction.) That’s based on up to a four-hour wait in Calgary and flying no more than 30% out of your way.
In 2019, these 12 had over 380,000 roundtrip passengers. As you’d expect, almost all were to/from Los Angeles and San Francisco, distantly followed by Phoenix and Vancouver.
Traffic volume was helped by Norwegian and Alitalia’s Rome-Los Angeles nonstop services and Norwegian on Rome-Oakland. Both markets are now unserved and provide an opportunity of sorts for WestJet. Rome-Los Angeles/San Francisco via Calgary involves a wait of about 90 minutes in both directions.
Transit markets with up to a four-hour wait and flying no more than 30% out of your way. Rome-Calgary-Los Angeles, for example, has a 1.8% longer distance than a non-stop would be. Image: OAG.
The lowest price I could find in either direction was Rome to Calgary for US$166 (CAD$212/EUR158) on June 10th. That is, of course, for Basic, WestJet’s lowest fare family.
While that price includes taxes, it doesn’t include a checked bag (carry-on is free), seat selection, or any mileage points. However, it includes entertainment, a meal and snack, and drinks.
The cheapest fare I could find. Image: Google Flights.
That US$166 – while extremely limited in availability – is less than virtually all of WestJet’s Calgary to Toronto flights on the same day. Most are priced at a minimum of US$189, with the only cheaper ticket (just US$69) the red-eye, leaving at 00:05 and arriving at 05:45 local.
Have you flown WestJet long-haul? If so, share your experiences by commenting.