WestJet to begin flying to U.S cities in October

WestJet will begin scheduled flights to the United States beginning in October, the company said Wednesday.

The Calgary-based discount carrier said its first flights will be to Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando. By the end of 2004, the airline will add seasonal service to Phoenix and Palm Springs.

The company said further details on the U.S. destinations and the date the flights will go on sale will be released pending negotiations with the various airports.

WestJet president and CEO Clive Beddoe said "the timing is now ideal for WestJet to begin transborder service."

"Canadians have been asking WestJet to provide our low fares and unique service into the United States for many years," Beddoe said.

"We are now at a stage in our growth where transborder service is a prudent, logical next step," he added.

The addition of flights to the U.S. came as WestJet announced 120 new weekly flights on its summer schedule. The company said that by July 5, it will be offering a total of 1700 weekly flights.

The U.S. expansion is the latest for WestJet, which has its roots in Western Canada. Last month, the airline moved its hub in Eastern Canada from Hamilton to the new Terminal 1 at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

It has reported 28 consecutive quarters of profitability, a rarity in the struggling aviation world.

WestJet already charters some of its aircraft on routes to Mexico and the Caribbean. Under a two-year deal signed last August, Transat A.T.'s two main tour operators book WestJet planes with Canadian passengers heading south.

WestJet shares slipped 26 cents to $26.75 on the TSX.