Air Canada, WestJet upbeat despite costs, economy

Thu Aug 4, 2011 1:46pm EDT
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By Nicole Mordant

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - Air Canada and WestJet Airlines sketched a relatively optimistic outlook for the third quarter on Thursday, despite high fuel prices and uncertainty over the global economy.

Canada's two biggest airlines earlier in the day reported stronger than expected second-quarter results after keeping a lid on costs and raising fares to offset higher fuel prices.

Both airlines' shares initially edged higher on the Toronto Stock Exchange but then slipped into negative territory as the broader market sold off on increased concerns about the U.S. and European economies.

"While the current fuel price environment is challenging, by remaining focused on the execution of our strategy I am confident that we can continue to maintain momentum on all fronts," Air Canada Chief Executive Calin Rovinescu said.

Shortly thereafter his counterpart at WestJet, Canada's No. 2 carrier, said bookings for August and September looked healthy although he admitted it was "early days" yet.

"At this point it is looking pretty strong across the board. All of the segments are performing pretty well and we don't see any variance in domestic versus international," WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said on a conference call.

Saretsky said WestJet, which was one of the few North American airlines to remain profitable throughout the 2008-09 recession, would follow the same "playbook" as in that period if the economy "fell off the rails".


<p>An Air Canada Boeing 777 taxis at Sydney airport after being given the all clear to resume its journey to Vancouver July 28, 2011. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne</p>