July 7, 2014 / 5:28 PM / 3 years ago

Canada's WestJet Airlines to fly wide-body aircraft

TORONTO, July 7 (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd, Canada's No. 2 carrier, said on Monday it planned to fly its own wide-body planes as early as the autumn of 2015 and was in advanced stages of sourcing the aircraft, a move that heats up competition with larger rival Air Canada.

WestJet, which launched its first trans-Atlantic service to Ireland this summer with its existing fleet of narrow-body planes, said it initially plans to operate four wide-body planes on routes between Alberta and Hawaii in late 2015.

WestJet said its current winter service on that route uses two Boeing 757-200s operated by Thomas Cook, an agreement that will end in the spring of 2015.

"This is the natural, next-step evolution for WestJet," Chief Executive Gregg Saretsky said in a statement.

In December, Saretsky said that WestJet had already held talks with Boeing Co and Airbus about buying wide-body planes and in May the airline said it was talking to plane makers and lessors.

Calgary, Alberta-based WestJet said it was looking to expand into overseas markets and will announce its wide-body schedule for the 2016 summer season at a later date.

The airline, which is attempting to boost revenue and push beyond its low-fare origins, has for several years toyed with the idea of expanding into the long-haul market with a new fleet.

WestJet did not say on Monday how many wide-body planes it plans to buy. It currently flies Boeing 737-600, 737-700, 737-7800 and Bombardier Q400 aircraft.

Air Canada launched a discount vacation carrier, Rouge, last summer to serve high-volume leisure flights to the Caribbean, United States and other international markets.

In 2012, WestJet launched a regional subsidiary, Encore, to expand into smaller markets in Canada and the United States. (Reporting by Susan Taylor; Editing by James Dalgleish)

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