March 29, 2007 / 4:52 PM / 12 years ago

CORRECTED (OFFICIAL)-WestJet sees 13 percent capacity growth

(Company corrects 2007 capacity growth target to 13 percent from 19 percent, clarifies 19 percent is for first quarter)

CALGARY, Alberta, March 28 (Reuters) - WestJet Airlines Ltd. (WJA.TO) aims to boost capacity by 13 percent in 2007 while evaluating more Canadian and international destinations, the president of Canada’s No. 2 carrier said on Wednesday.

Airline president Sean Durfy’s prediction for 2007 would compare with WestJet’s 17.3 percent addition last year. The carrier expects capacity, measured by available seat miles, will increase 19 percent for the first quarter.

The Calgary-based company has a long-term goal of lifting capacity by 10 percent annually.

“That’s a lot of capacity,” Durfy told an investment conference in Toronto. “But we’ll increase our transborder presence and ... we’ll continue to commercialize our schedule that we have domestically in Canada.”

It wants to improve its position in the transborder business market by increasing the number of travelers who buy tickets in the United States to fly to Canada.

On the Calgary-Phoenix route, for instance, 90 percent of the tickets are purchased in Calgary, as opposed to a 50-50 split on the Calgary-Toronto route, Durfy said.

“The reason we’ve only penetrated the sun markets in the U.S. is we don’t have good point-of-sale in the U.S. into Canada,” he said.

The airline needs 25 percent U.S. sales on such transborder routes to make the business travel market meaningful to its results, he added.

The carrier, which has a fleet of 64 new Boeing 737 aircraft, is also looking at starting new scheduled services to Mexico and other tropical regions but will not impede the terms of its charter alliance with vacation company Transat A.T. Inc. TRZb.TO, Durfy said.

And there are still opportunities to add routes in Canada despite WestJet’s rapid expansion, he said.

With mainline and charter operations, Calgary-based WestJet flies to 63 destinations in 11 countries, recently adding Bahamas to its network of vacation spots.

WestJet shares were off 22 Canadian cents at C$15.08 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

$1=$1.16 Canadian

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