Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet buys competitor Sunwing Airlines

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WestJet airline signage is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, February 5, 2019. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

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March 2 (Reuters) – Canadian airline WestJet Group, owned by private equity firm Onex Corp (ONEX.TO), said on Wednesday it would buy leisure rival Sunwing Airlines for an undisclosed sum as it seeks to take advantage of a rebound in air transport.

WestJet said it would also buy travel booking website Sunwing Vacations, as part of the deal, which is expected to close in late 2022, pending regulatory approval.

The Canadian travel industry, including carriers like Air Canada (AC.TO), has been hit hard during the pandemic with earlier restrictions like mandatory quarantine periods dealing a blow to demand.

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Traffic is expected to rebound as restrictions ease and travelers have the option of using either a rapid antigen test or a molecular PCR test to meet pre-entry requirements for vaccinated travellers.

ATB Financial analyst Chris Murray said he did not expect the deal to create much new capacity. He sees it as an opportunistic move by WestJet to broaden its exposure to leisure destinations, one of the first markets to recover.

The union representing Sunwing flight attendants said it would fight to defend the jobs of its 800 members following the announcement of the deal.

“The pandemic has been very tough on our industry, and our airline in particular,” said Rena Kisfalvi, president of Local 4055 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). “We will closely monitor this proposal. , and our sole focus will remain on defending our members’ jobs and livelihoods as this process moves forward. »

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Reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru and Allison Lampert in Montreal; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Aurora Ellis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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