Higher airfares on way

The Canadian Press – | Stories: 432620

Experts say WestJet’s decision to shut down Sunwing Airlines and fold it into its main operations will mean less service and higher fares — particularly in Western Canada and smaller cities across the country.

Sunwing told its employees it was being absorbed by its new owner on Wednesday, less than a week after WestJet announced plans to shutter discount subsidiary Swoop.

John Gradek, who teaches at McGill University’s aviation management program, says the latest move is bad news for consumers looking to head to warmer destinations, given the narrower flight options and pricier tickets likely to result from a merger of former competitors.

Aviation consultant Rick Erickson says Air Transat and Air Canada will ensure a healthy mix of competition for sun destinations, but that travelers in smaller markets ranging from Saskatoon to St. John’s, NL, may well have to shell out more.

In a report from October, the Competition Bureau said WestJet and Sunwing comprised 37 per cent of seat capacity on direct flights to sun destinations, and 72 per cent from Western Canada.

Sunwing Airlines president Len Corrado told employees in a memo last week that the integration with Calgary-based WestJet, which acquired the discount carrier in May, will take place within two years as part of a strategy to unlock greater scale and growth opportunities.