WestJet plans to fly wide-body planes by fall 2015

WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it aims to have its own wide-body aircraft in the sky next year.

Load factors up at both WestJet and Air Canada

Initially, WestJet expects to operate four wide-body aircraft on routes between Alberta and Hawaii during the winter.

WestJet Airlines Ltd. says it aims to have its own wide-body aircraft in the sky next year.

The bigger planes will offer greater range than WestJet's current fleet of Boeing 737s and allow it to compete with Air Canada on more routes.

The Calgary-based airline says it plans to operate four of the wide-body planes initially, with their first flights going between Alberta and Hawaii during the 2015 winter season.

The company says is in the advanced stages of sourcing the aircraft.

CEO Gregg Sarestsky says it's the next phase of WestJet's evolution as the carrier eyes an expansion into more international destinations.

The airline had been using two Boeing 757-200 planes operated by Thomas Cook for its Alberta-Hawaii winter service, but that agreement ends next spring.

In addition to the 737s, WestJet's Encore regional service flies the Bombardier Q400 turboprop.

More capacity, more passengers

The announcement comes as Canadians take to the air in larger numbers. WestJet revealed its load factor for June 2014 was up 0.6 percentage points from the previous year to 77.4 per cent.

WestJet also increased its capacity in the past year and flew 4.8 million people in the second quarter of this year, up 6.2 per cent from last year.

Air Canada, meanwhile, increased its load factor in June to a record 85.7 per cent,  up from 85.0 per cent in June 2013. Those results include Air Canada Rouge, its discount airline.

CEO Calin Rovinescu says U.S., Atlantic and Caribbean were up and traffic grew by 10.6 per cent because of increased capacity.

With files from CBC