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Interesting Westjet Vs Air Canada Article  
User currently offlineDash8King From Canada, joined Nov 2001, 2743 posts, RR: 11
Posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 6 days 2 hours ago) and read 2939 times:

http://www.globeinvestor.com/servlet/WireFeedRedirect?cf=GlobeInvestor/config&vg=BigAdVariableGenerator&date=20021217&archive=gam&slug=RJETT

WestJet CEO predicts victory in dogfight with Air Canada


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By PATRICK BRETHOUR
00:00 EST Tuesday, December 17, 2002

CALGARY -- Clive Beddoe, self-proclaimed giant killer of Canada's airline industry, says his WestJet Airlines Ltd. will bring Air Canada to its knees in the next 12 months.

Some time next year, says the WestJet chief executive officer, his much larger rival will be forced to confront the contradiction in trying to match his firm's low prices -- without its low cost structure.

"Something's going to break here," says the 56-year-old executive, pointing to the more than $400-million in debt that Air Canada will have to repay next year.

"There's a crisis coming," says Mr. Beddoe, who manages to combine an unassuming manner -- how many CEOs have a self-deprecating sign reading Big Shots outside the executive offices? -- with unassailable self-confidence.

After all, it was WestJet, not Air Canada, that issued a profit warning eight days ago, the first in its six-year history.

For its part, Air Canada dismisses the notion that it faces any sort of crisis. "Everybody likes to play junior market analyst," says Stephen Smith, president and CEO of Zip Air Inc., the discount airline spun off from Air Canada earlier this year.

Air Canada -- saddled by high debt and a low stock price -- hasn't said yet how it will repay the $426-million in debt due next year, the largest instalment of which is due in the third quarter. But analysts say one option would be to sell off some of the ancillary businesses that it has been setting up as stand-alone operations this year. The Montreal-based airline had $717-million in cash and equivalents as of Sept. 30, down from $897-million as of June 30.

Despite the tough talk, last week was a rough one for Mr. Beddoe and WestJet, a patch of turbulence in an otherwise spectacular flight path. On Monday, the company warned that its fourth-quarter earnings would be no more than half of what analysts had expected, sending its stock into a tailspin. The company says the impact of the federal security surcharge on short-haul routes was to blame, with the expansion of its fleet contributing to the drag on profit. Some analysts, however, think WestJet may be starting to feel the malaise that has afflicted its industry for more than a year.

Mr. Beddoe, a kind of anti-CEO who rarely wears a tie and insists that all WestJet employees call him Clive, clearly isn't too worried about the profit warning -- which he prefers to describe as an update meant to keep analysts' earnings expectations in check.

Since its launch in 1996, the Calgary-based airline has turned in 23 consecutive quarters of profit. The earnings warning last week won't ruin WestJet's record. But it does highlight the challenges that the upstart carrier faces as it expands its nascent national network into a full-fledged competitor to Air Canada's domestic operations. And the warning is a firm reminder of the perils of too-fast growth in the airline industry, where keeping fixed costs under tight control is everything.

WestJet's prediction of a crisis might seem laughable: For every dollar in revenue at Air Canada, WestJet takes in about 6 cents.

But WestJet is, at least for the moment, outmanoeuvring its eastern rival. Despite its smaller size, the company's market value is twice as big as Air Canada's.

And it is gaining passenger traffic, partly at the expense of Air Canada. At the start of the year, Air Canada logged five revenue passenger miles (RPMs) domestically -- measured as the number of paying passengers multiplied by the distance they fly -- for every one of WestJet's. But this year, that gap had narrowed significantly as WestJet has added capacity and routes. Last month, Air Canada flew just three RPMs domestically for each of WestJet's.

Air Canada acknowledges that it is losing some market share, but says this is the natural consequence of expansion by WestJet and other discount carriers. Another factor for this year's decline is the unusual boost to Air Canada's passenger traffic last year after Canada 3000's demise.

But some analysts believe that WestJet will displace Air Canada as the dominant domestic airline within the next half decade. Firm market share numbers are hard to come by in the airline industry, but both WestJet and analysts estimate that the company has about 20 per cent of the domestic market currently.

WestJet's share could top 50 per cent some time between 2006 and 2008, says Cameron Doerksen of Dlouhy Merchant Group Inc. in Montreal.

Mr. Doerksen says Air Canada's launch of a regional airline Jazz and discount carrier Zip is a "reasonably effective strategy." And he praises Air Canada for acting quickly and forcefully to launch brands to compete with WestJet's discount model, in contrast with carriers such as United Airlines Inc.,which has sunk into bankruptcy protection under the weight of its cost structure. "I think they've executed almost to perfection," he says of Air Canada, which turned in a third-quarter profit, a rare achievement outside of the discount carriers.

Zip concedes that it is not likely to match WestJet's low costs -- but says it doesn't need to, since Air Canada's revenue from the higher ticket prices at the upper end of the market will boost profit margins.

Despite the praise, Mr. Doerksen doubts that Air Canada will be able to do much in the long run to keep WestJet from grabbing most of the passengers looking for cheap, no-frills service, even in the lucrative Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto triangle. "I think it's going to evolve into much more of a national airline."

Others, such as independent analyst Sam Barone, see WestJet's market share cresting at under 40 per cent.

Still, WestJet is expanding cautiously, hoping to avoid eroding its profits in a quest for market share. Mr. Beddoe says WestJet will start flying into two or three major domestic markets next year. Asked what the airline will look like in five years, he says: "We'll be in every major city in Canada within the next few years. And some minor ones as well."

But he says such expansion will come only when the airline is sure that it can make full use of the extra capacity.

Mr. Beddoe isn't making any market share predictions, but he does see WestJet as the only effective competition to Air Canada. "We have two players left in Canada," he says, effectively dismissing other low-cost operators such as Jetsgo Corp. of Montreal.

Zip's Mr. Smith insists that the launch of the discount airline is a response to the changing nature of air travel, not an attempt to hold back or roll back WestJet's gains in the market. But Mr. Beddoe clearly doesn't see it that way. "Air Canada will do whatever they can to keep us from growing," he says, pointing to his rival's selective application of fuel surcharges.

At the beginning of the year, Air Canada, and its offshoot western regional airline Jazz, began to waive the $15 surcharge ($30 for a round trip) for customers who used the Web to book tickets on selected short-haul routes.

Air Canada says it simply wants to generate more traffic on routes where people may opt to drive rather than fly. A spokeswoman for the airline says the surcharge has been waived in markets across the country, including routes where Air Canada faces no competition.

But WestJet believes it is the main target of the measure, saying that its analysis shows it competes with Air Canada on most of the routes where the surcharges have been waived. "This is mockery. It's an insult to the consumer," Mr. Beddoe says.

That kind of rhetoric sounds a lot like a prelude to a full-out assault on Air Canada in its heartland in Central Canada.

Mr. Beddoe, vague on the when and how, leaves no doubt as to what he plans: Using the simple weapon of low costs to topple Air Canada from its position of dominance -- even in its own backyard of Montreal and Quebec City. "We'll leave that to last," he says.


Well I think it is a very good article but Mr. Beddoe is kind of shooting his mouth off. What do you guys think.


24 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineCaptaingomes From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 6413 posts, RR: 55
Reply 1, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 6 days ago) and read 2889 times:

I agree with Clive on many points. Air Canada will continue to face many difficulties as debts become due. The only way for Air Canada to prosper is if the industry as a whole sees significant improvements and they can maintain profitability in the long run. Otherwise, as debt becomes due, they will just continue selling what they have, and will in effect have to downsize.

I also believe as I've stated before that Air Canada will not prosper by competing directly with the low cost airlines. Air Canada is not and will never be a true low cost airline. By alienating their core customers, they will continue to piss them off while the core customers of true low cost airlines will continue to support real low cost airlines. Truly, Air Canada's fascination with market share will in the end prove more costly to them than by focussing on their own strengths and not be so concerned with market share. This is not how they will achieve sustained profitability. You just can't be too big in Canada, it doesn't work with deregulation.

I do not agree with Clive by dismissing other low cost airlines, such as Jetsgo and Canjet. Budget passengers are not that loyal, and will always look for the best bang for the buck. The only real advantage WestJet has over other low cost airlines is the much more extensive route network. But give others some time, and they will likely have fairly elaborate networks of their own.

I see the low cost industry as a whole getting about 50% of the domestic market, but that is not WestJet alone. WestJet will be the dominant player in domestic low cost, but the others will get their fair share of the pie.

So, what will Air Canada sell when debt becomes due, and they don't have cash available to pay off the debts? Will it be more aircraft? Or will they sell subsidiaries such as Zip or Jazz? It will be interesting to see, that's for sure. Before anybody tells me that the future of domestic Air Canada will be like Zip is now, explain why Air Canada is beefing up their executive class in order to better compete with the standards set by the best airlines in the world?



"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster
User currently offlineDash8King From Canada, joined Nov 2001, 2743 posts, RR: 11
Reply 2, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 2856 times:

In my opinion Zip and Tango will hurt them in the long run because it will just end up competing with the mother airline.

So, what will Air Canada sell when debt becomes due, and they don't have cash available to pay off the debts? Will it be more aircraft? Or will they sell subsidiaries such as Zip or Jazz?

They are already trying to sell Jazz and maybe they will try to sell Tango or Zip too. BTW what is Jazz selling for?


User currently offlineCaptaingomes From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 6413 posts, RR: 55
Reply 3, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 21 hours ago) and read 2850 times:

I don't know what Jazz is selling for, but there doesn't seem to be much interest in it. Will Air Canada be in a similar situation in the long run where they sell their subsidiaries like British Airways did with Go?


"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster
User currently offlineAC340 From Canada, joined Aug 2001, 337 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 19 hours ago) and read 2833 times:

The fact that Air Canada is profitable means they won't have to sell anything or very little to pay off debts. Obviously the profits they will make will be less than the debt due, but I think it should be noted that the profits they make will enable them to secure more financing. As long as they stay in the black, they can continue to push they're debts off maybe at better interest rates. They were profitable last quarter, they will probably be profitable this quarter. I'd be surprised if the debt issue is much of an issue at all at the end of the day.

As for Jazz, Air Canada will probably have a difficult time getting a decent price for it right now because the short-haul market has tanked ever since Chretien and those ever wonderful examples of fiscal (mis)management (aka the Liberal Party) levied that security tax equally to all flights, regardless of length, effectively killing regional air travel. Until that tax is removed, I can't see Jazz being an attractive acquisition for anyone at a reasonable market value.


User currently offlineJetCaptain From Canada, joined Dec 2000, 236 posts, RR: 1
Reply 5, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 18 hours ago) and read 2802 times:

AC340,

> The fact that Air Canada is profitable means they won't have to sell anything or very little to pay off debts. <

For the first 9 months of 2002, Air Canada has only generated an operating income of $70 million, and shown a net loss of $64 million. The street is estimating that they will show a net loss of around $95 million for the fiscal year 2002.

The airline is not generating enough profit from its core business of flying airplanes to pay off its debt. The only way it has been able to survive is by selling assets. When they run out of things to sell, they are going to be in big trouble.

Standard & Poor's on Tuesday lowered its credit ratings on Air Canada's senior debt, saying that recent losses by the carrier have eroded asset protection for unsecured creditors. This is not going to help when they need to raise more financing in the future.

However, unfortunately for Clive and his grand visions of the future, there is still going to be a Liberal government in power that probably won't let Air Canada fail.

Time will tell, but I wouldn't be buying AC stock anytime soon.

JC


User currently offlineFallingeese From Canada, joined Apr 2001, 2097 posts, RR: 18
Reply 6, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 2780 times:

Let's not forget that Jazz has been up for sale for a lengthy period of time, still no takers though.


Mark McWhirter...Contrails Photography
User currently offlineLymanm From Canada, joined Jan 2001, 1138 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 2780 times:

"So, what will Air Canada sell when debt becomes due, and they don't have cash available to pay off the debts? Will it be more aircraft? Or will they sell subsidiaries such as Zip or Jazz?"

Aircraft and engine lease/buy-backs are a possibility, and AC has done this quite a number of times this year already. However, the 2 primary sellable assets AC has is Aeroplan and AC Technical services. Aeroplan can make bagloads of money by selling the use of points to other firms - attractive to a potential investor. Additionally, AC Tech has a renowned worldwide reputation that will no doubt also be sold at a very reasonable price. LH made a similar spin off with their tech services. As far as Jazz goes, remember part of the agreement the feds made allowing AC to buy CP was that they would try to sell Jazz (ACR at the time) but there were no takers. I don't see why anything has changed, Jazz has the highest seat-mile cost in the country.

Regarding the article, it was very even sided, balancing both Smith and Beddoe, although I wished they had pointed where Smith used to work!



buhh bye
User currently offlineAC340 From Canada, joined Aug 2001, 337 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 2770 times:

JetCaptain,
Point taken. If they are getting their bond rating reduced, I suppose it is unlike that they'll be able to secure financing, or at least financing at a favourable rate.

Does anyone know what the "Assets" side of Air Canada's balance sheet looks like?

In defence of the Liberals (man, I can't believe I am actually going to say this  Big grin ) I'm pretty sure every one of Canada's political parties would bail out Air Canada if it were to fail. This country is far to reliant on air travel to let a company like Air Canada to fail. They'd let some of the other smaller airlines fail, as we have seen in the past, but grounding Air Canada would probably cripple the economy. I think a situation resembling that of Sabena or Swissair would be highly unlikely in Canada.


User currently offlineCaptaingomes From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 6413 posts, RR: 55
Reply 9, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 2764 times:

Air Canada's Q3 balance sheet stats:

ASSETS Sept 30/02 Dec 31/01 Change
Cash: 717 1067 -32.8
Current Assets: 2029 2235 -9.2
Property and Equipment: 2516 2830 -11.1

LIABILITIES
Current Liabilities: 2807 2869 -2.2
L-T Debt 4234 4580 -7.6

SHAREHOLDER'S EQUITY
Shareholder's Equity: (1524) (1460)
Book Value Per Share: (12.68) (12.15)



Note: () indicates negative amount




"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster
User currently offlineCaptaingomes From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 6413 posts, RR: 55
Reply 10, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 16 hours ago) and read 2762 times:

Sorry ... my last message didn't come out at all like I wanted. It's confusing to read, sorry about that. Go to the AC website to get a nice presentation on Q3 results.


"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster
User currently offlineRP TPA From United States of America, joined Oct 1999, 852 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 2761 times:

Lymanm....

I'd like to correct what you wrote about the feds requiring AC to sell off ACRegional. Actually, when AC bought out CP, the agreement with the feds was for CP regional to be offered to be sold. AC had CPR appraised, and any interested party had to submit a blind bid. When the highest bid didnt approach the appraised value, AC was allowed to keep CP regional and merge it into the ACR family.


User currently offlineAdmiral Ackbar From Canada, joined May 2002, 159 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 15 hours ago) and read 2755 times:

Aeroplan can make bagloads of money by selling the use of points to other firms - attractive to a potential investor.

Yeah that is going to be just great for reward seat availabilty, which is already horrendous.

They also started giving status (qualifying) miles this year for non-flying business when you bought tickets from destina.ca. Looks like Aeroplan keeps getting better!  Angry


User currently offlineLymanm From Canada, joined Jan 2001, 1138 posts, RR: 1
Reply 13, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 2736 times:

RP TPA, thanks for the info. AC re-branding ACR as Jazz was seen partyl as an effort in making it more of an attrative purchase. The future of Jazz remains the cloudiest of any subsidiary, with AC cannabalizing Jazz routes with Zip and closing stations.

Admiral Ackbar regarding Aeroplan, not only can you earn non-flying miles, but you can now redeem miles on non-flying activites as well, like car rentals and ski trips, making Aeroplan even more user-friendly. Anyway, your bitterness tells me you were denied seats on a reward flight or put on hold for hours, hehehe...I never understood why people expect AC to bend over backwards to provide FREE air travel. You get what you pay for, and when you pay nothing, it's not fair to expect last minute/full fare executive class treatment.



buhh bye
User currently offlineChock head From Samoa, joined May 2002, 148 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 11 hours ago) and read 2708 times:

Interesting article to say the very least followed up by some really good points. I also think one of the great things WestJet has is a CEO with vision and leadership who the rank and file employees trust.

Steve Smith may have worked at WestJet but he "resigned" when it became apparent that he did not fit into the WestJet culture. I think that the WestJet/Southwest/Jet Blue way of doing things is the future of the airline industry.


User currently offlineAdmiral ackbar From Canada, joined May 2002, 159 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 2688 times:

Lymanm,

I have actually never tried to book a reward seat on AC, just going from the experiences of most people in the Air Canada section of Flyertalk.com.

And as a member of one of the upper tiers of AC (not that that means anything), I would expect a bit of service in exchange for willingly putting my butt in their seats so many times. And to add insult to injury, they tell Elites that they can convert a revenue seat into a reward seat for 200% points, and have the gall to call it a benefit.

IIRC, most FFP in their upper tiers allow you to convert revenue seats into reward seats for little (not 200%) or no premium, provided that there are seats on the plane.


User currently offlineLymanm From Canada, joined Jan 2001, 1138 posts, RR: 1
Reply 16, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 5 days ago) and read 2662 times:

Chock head - One of the other great things that WJ has is practically across the board awesome employee morale. Ask any WJer if they would leave, given the chance to get on with AC, and you'll get a resounding NO!

Admiral ackbar -

Second hand anecdotal experience from Flyertalk.com? Hahaha. In the past 2 years, I've flown AC YOW-FCO-YOW, MCO-YOW-MCO x3, MCO-YHZ-MCO, YOW-YSJ-YOW, YUL-RDU-YUL, YUL-YYZ-YUL all on Elite points, without a problem from initial phone call to trip completion. That is my personal anecdotal experience. See how that means NOTHING? 2nd hand anecdotal experience means even LESS.

You are right about the requirement to use double points to open up additional seats as an Elite memeber (35,000 miles in one year). However, Super Elite status does not have this requirement - rightfully so, since that status requires you to fly 100,000 miles in one year, quite a difference from Elite. If you want to be treated as Super Elite, simply fly more. Either way, I still view free flying as a benefit, even if AC does have the "gall" to have progressive perks programs.

"IIRC, most FFP in their upper tiers allow you to convert revenue seats into reward seats for little (not 200%) or no premium, provided that there are seats on the plane."

Really? I would like to hear examples. Others I know of; AA and DL both require additional points for last minute reward travel. Additionally, both those milage plans have a minimum of 25,000 miles per trip - AC has less, at 15,000 for travel within the North East. Furthermore, AA even redeems fewer miles based on the type of ticket you have: .5 points per mile flown if you only bought a discount economy ticket.

http://www.delta.com/skymiles/member_guide/delta_awards/index.jsp

https://www.aa.com/content/utility/FAQs/AAdvantage_FAQ.jhtml?anchorEvent=

What am I trying to prove here? ALL airlines are fickle with their reward programs - they've got to be, otherwise they'd all be losing more money than they already are. I think it's time for self-important yuppies (not directed at anyone in particular) to develop a less ego-centric view of air travel and adopt more realistic expectations.



buhh bye
User currently offlineDash8King From Canada, joined Nov 2001, 2743 posts, RR: 11
Reply 17, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 2626 times:

Are Westjet flights in the 500's still 737NG's or have they expanded that yet?

User currently offlineKdonohue From Canada, joined Sep 2001, 375 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 2600 times:

Without starting a low-fare carrier of its own, how do you think AC can compete with WJ? They can't. So, if they pull out of the market, then WJ has a monopoly. Is that a good thing?



User currently offlineCaptaingomes From Canada, joined Feb 2001, 6413 posts, RR: 55
Reply 19, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 2597 times:

If Zip pulls out of the market for whatever reason, WestJet will not have a monopoly. Even if they wont face direct competition from other low cost airlines in certain markets, they still have competition in other forms. It's hardly a monopolistic environment.


"it's kind of like an Airbus, it's an engineering marvel, but there's no sense of passion" -- J. Clarkson re: Coxster
User currently offlineYyz717 From Canada, joined Sep 2001, 16285 posts, RR: 56
Reply 20, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 2595 times:

Since ZIP seems to be replacing AC mainline, a ZIP pullout could mean either a full AC withdrawal from the market (unlikely) or reinstating AC mainline (also unlikely). Hence, I see ZIP as AC's last domestic defense against WJ.




Panam, TWA, Ansett, Eastern.......AC next? Might be good for Canada.
User currently offlineAdmiral ackbar From Canada, joined May 2002, 159 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 4 days 2 hours ago) and read 2570 times:

Lymanm, I knew arguing with you wouldn't be easy!  Big grin

I should have been more precise. I think most of the complaints are for people that want to use their miles to go to 'popular' destinations such as sunny climes (Honolulu for example) during the winter months. I realise that it is AC's first duty to make money on their routes, but I guess that not being able to book seats, even when you are very flexible on the dates makes some people angry.

I didn't mean to insinuate that AC had the gall to have a progressiv eperks program, i am not that stupid. It is just the positive spin that they put on the 200% instant-KK benefit, as if they were doing E's a huge favour that rubbed me the wrong way.

Agreed on the great rates for the short-haul rewards, when you factor the Elite award seat sales, you can't beat YUL-New York for 13000 miles.

Overall, I am quite happy with Aeroplan, it is the easiest way to get Star Alliance gold ie. 35K miles instead of 50K on most Star airlines.

Thanks for all the research you did countering my points!  Big thumbs up


User currently offlineDash8King From Canada, joined Nov 2001, 2743 posts, RR: 11
Reply 22, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 4 days ago) and read 2553 times:

Yes arguing with Lymanm is not always the easiest task but it is possible to win.

User currently offlineYyz717 From Canada, joined Sep 2001, 16285 posts, RR: 56
Reply 23, posted (11 years 9 months 1 week 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 2527 times:

Lyman's okay. He knows his stuff. At least he doesn't throw (little) temper tamtrums and call people racist (like a certain YUL member).......


Panam, TWA, Ansett, Eastern.......AC next? Might be good for Canada.
User currently offlineA330cfbus From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 24, posted (11 years 9 months 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 2492 times:

Actually, now it's any flight numbers from 500-899 for scheduled 737-700 flights... when the 737-800 series aircraft were around, they're flight numbers were in the 600-699 range. But since they left, those flight numbers are now expanded to the -700 aircraft.

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