WestJet Airlines will launch a new cargo service next year amid a surge in demand for reliable air freight.
The Calgary-based airline announced Wednesday that it will convert Boeing 737-800 aircraft in its fleet for its dedicated cargo service. The first converted planes are expected to enter service by the second quarter of next year.
The new service comes amid growing global demand for air cargo. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), global demand for cargo shipping was up 12 per cent in April compared to the same period in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic struck.
WestJet says in a statement that the division will provide cargo customers "with increased reliability, flexibility and capacity."
"WestJet Cargo will enhance economic benefits through competitive product for shippers as well as new employment opportunities," Charles Duncan, WestJet's executive vice-president of cargo, said in the statement.
"Dedicated, cost-efficient and nimble narrow body freighters will make WestJet Cargo a dynamic and strong competitor."
The launch of WestJet's new service also comes shortly after Air Canada announced it will launch new international routes for its existing cargo service. Starting in October, Air Canada will operate routes between Toronto and Miami, Quito, Lima, Mexico City and Guadalajara for the first time in the airline's history. The company also plans to expand service early next year to fly between Halifax, St. John's, Madrid and Frankfurt.
With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to a dramatic decline in travel demand, cargo has been a bright spot amid a turbulent period for many airlines. In Air Canada's most recent financial quarter, the airline saw revenue from cargo operations jump 89 per cent to $281 million. Airlines have also seen an increase in both demand and pricing, thanks to a surge in e-commerce and tight transportation capacity.
Alicja Siekierska is a senior reporter at Yahoo Finance Canada. Follow her on Twitter @alicjawithaj.