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Where’s the Luv, WestJet? Southwest Airlines kept in the dark on codeshare, as Delta moves in

Westjet CEO, Gregg Saretsky
Westjet CEO, Gregg Saretsky

WestJet was signaling and the media was trumpeting, but apparently everyone forgot to tell Southwest Airlines that its proposed codeshare agreement with WestJet was in jeopardy. Last Monday, WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky said part of the deal between it and Delta which will give the Canadian carrier slots at New York LaGuardia, may include codesharing.

It was the media reports that tipped off Dallas-based Southwest, which issued a statement last Thursday. Southwest said that it learned of the proposed Delta/WestJet slot deal about the same time, although it had already cried foul about that deal when Delta and US Airways announced it over a week ago. See related report: Southwest objects to Delta and US Airways plans to hand out slots

Southwest disputed Saretsky’s assertions that Southwest had signaled to WestJet it would not be ready for the codeshare deal to go forward. "The Southwest/WestJet project was on target in accordance with a mutually agreed upon timetable," said Bob Jordan, Southwest's Executive Vice President of Strategy and Planning, in the company’s statement. He added, "however, WestJet in recent weeks requested material and significant changes to our agreement that we could not accept. We are, and always have been, prepared to move forward to implement our agreement with WestJet. We have not yet been notified of WestJet's intent to terminate that agreement. If we are so notified in order for WestJet to consummate its deal with Delta, Southwest remains very interested in offering our loyal customers service to Canada via the most efficient means possible."

That may mean Southwest will just go it alone to Canada.

What does Lufthansa think?

A WestJet/Delta codeshare deal would be a first, although the interline agreement between oneworld member American and JetBlue, announced last Wednesday set tongues wagging about global alliances and the likely response of Star Alliance stalwart Lufthansa, which has invested USD300 million (for a 15.6% stake) in JetBlue. See related report: JetBlue/American Airlines interline and slot swap a watershed for US airline evolution

So far, Lufthansa has only been diplomatic and said if the deal is good for JetBlue then that protects its investment. JetBlue said likewise.

MIT Transportation Research Engineer William Swelbar wondered whether JetBlue is becoming the Alaska Airlines of the East by “keeping itself most relevant in its home market by codesharing with many airlines.

The one question is whether American, which poured B757s into Long Beach when JetBlue launched operations and is not shy about Sabre-rattling to keep LCCs at bay, has finally decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That, indeed may be the way of the future.

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