We marked a significant internal milestone today at WestJet, celebrating the return of profit share for the first time since the pandemic. Profit share has been synonymous with the WestJet culture for 27 years, meaning a portion of profit gets distributed among WestJetters in recognition of everyone’s contributions to our success.
The first three quarters of this year outpaced our earnings from pre-pandemic 2019 and I could not be prouder to celebrate and congratulate the team for the great work that led to a return to profit.
Momentum and cautious optimism for 2024
We owe this success to a few factors that go beyond our best-in-class team. First and foremost, we have a strong and sustainable business model, fine-tuned to meet the needs of Canadian travellers. Canadians are embracing our investments in the communities we serve, and we intend to build on this momentum, leveraging our strategy to expand affordable and accessible air connectivity from coast-to-coast.
This year was also uniquely positive in that we had market momentum on our side. Coming out of the pandemic, Canadians were ready to travel, and this pent-up demand resulted in one of the best economic environments for airlines that I have ever seen.
While 2023 was a favourable environment that paved the way to a return to profitability, we remain cautiously optimistic on our outlook for 2024. The same uniquely Canadian cost challenges will continue, while the economy is weakening and higher interest rates are catching up to all of us, but we built considerable momentum as we head into the new year.
We are growing, both in aircraft and in talent. We have the largest narrowbody orderbook in Canada and are considering adding even more.
Enabling this fleet growth are the most talented aviation professionals in Canada. In addition to the more than 2,000 people hired in 2023 across all areas of our business, we turned an important corner this year with full pilot training classes and more applicants than we can hire. We are also seeing remarkable success across the many teams who support our operations, particularly amongst our dedicated mechanics, cabin crew members, contact centre and airports teams who show up rain, snow, or shine to support our airline and our guests.
Our strategy to be Canada’s western leader and national leisure champion is working. Our revenue in the most recent quarter was the highest ever in our history. We have a robust balance sheet and enjoy a comfortable cushion of liquidity. This should come as no surprise for those who watched how we managed our finances during COVID, as we are perhaps the only airline of scale globally that did not accept government loans, or issue any equity or debt of any kind, during the pandemic.
Our approach to responsibly managing our finances goes beyond being able to give back to our WestJetters. It ensures that we can accelerate our growth, while remaining affordable and reliable for the millions of Canadians who travel with us each year. And we intend to keep at it, enhancing aviation as a critical building block for Canada’s economy.
We will work hard to stay lean, improve our cost advantage over our competitors, and accelerate our growth. Following the pandemic, we saw more than 60 airlines around the globe disappear and never return and, in a country where air travel is so essential, we have worked to design our business model to keep us profitable in all four quarters. Business models that make money in some months and lose money in others will find it tougher to survive and we saw the harsh reality of this during the pandemic.