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With high fares from large airlines in the 1990s, and the desire of consumers for a low cost alternative, Calgary businessman Clive Beddoe looked at discount airlines in the United States, like Southwestern Airlines and Morris Air, and used them as models to create WestJet in western Canada in 1996.

WestJet kept costs low by not serving meals on flights, used one kind of aircraft, thereby reducing maintenance costs, and kept fares low enough to ensure a high percentage of seats were filled on all flights. The concept worked as passengers accepted flights without the "frills" other large airlines provided. The service was inexpensive, courteous and professional.

Early in 1996, WestJet started services between Vancouver, Kelowna, Calgary, Edmonton, and Winnipeg. The success of the airline brought about an expansion of services in 1996 to Victoria, Regina, and Saskatoon. In 1997 service to Abbotsford/Fraser Valley was added, and in 1999 stops were scheduled to Thunder Bay, Prince George, and Grande Prairie.

Changes in the air industry in 1999 made it possible for WestJet to fly across Canada, and it responded by flying to Hamilton, Ottawa, and Moncton in 2000. In 2001, WestJet added routes to Fort McMurray, Comox, and irregular flights to Brandon. In 2002, it added Toronto and London, Ontario, with Halifax, Windsor, Montreal, St. John’s and Gander added in 2003. In 2004, WestJet will add Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Fort Lauderdale, Tampa Bay, and Orlando. In 2005, WestJet expects to include flights between New York and Palm Springs.

WestJet brought a formula for success to the Canadian airline industry that has changed the way in which commercial air companies do business. The real impact of WestJet's activities can be seen in the many imitators which have sprung up in the Canadian passenger air service industry since WestJet first appeared on the scene.

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Alberta's Aviation Heritage

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