|Founded||February 29, 1996|
|Frequent-flyer program||WestJet Rewards|
|Fleet size||174 (Including Subsidiaries)|
|Company slogan||Owners Care|
|Traded as||TSX: WJA|
|Headquarters||Calgary, Alberta, Canada|
|Key people||Clive Beddoe, (Chairman of the Board of Directors, Co-Founder)|
WestJet Airlines Ltd. is a Canadian airline founded in 1996. It began as a low-cost alternative to the country's competing major airlines. WestJet provides scheduled and charter air service to 107 destinations in Canada, the United States, Europe, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean.
WestJet is currently the second-largest Canadian air carrier, behind Air Canada, operating an average of 777 flights and carrying over 66,130 guests per day. In 2017, WestJet carried 24.13 million passengers, making it the ninth-largest airline in North America by passengers carried.
WestJet is a public company with more than 13,000 employees, and is not part of any airline alliance. It operates three variants of the Boeing 737 Next Generation family, the Boeing 737 MAX, as well as Boeing 767 aircraft, on select long-haul routes. WestJet has two direct subsidiaries, WestJet Encore which operates the Bombardier Q400, and WestJet Link, which operates the Saab 340B. The airline's headquarters is located adjacent to the Calgary International Airport.
In 2017, WestJet had passenger revenues of CAN$4.502 billion and its earnings per share decreased 1.2% to C$2.42.
1990s: First flights
Founded by Clive Beddoe, David Neeleman, Mark Hill, Tim Morgan and Donald Bell, WestJet was based on the low-cost carrier business model pioneered by Southwest Airlines and Morris Air in the United States. Its original routes were all located in Western Canada, which gave the airline its name.
On February 29, 1996, the first WestJet flight (a Boeing 737-200) departed. Initially, the airline served Calgary, Edmonton, Kelowna, Vancouver and Winnipeg with a fleet of three used Boeing 737-200 aircraft and 225 employees. By the end of that same year, the company had added Regina, Saskatoon and Victoria to its network.
In mid-September 1996, WestJet's fleet was grounded due to a disagreement with Transport Canada over maintenance schedule requirements. The airline suspended all service for 2 weeks before resuming flights.
In early 1999, Clive Beddoe stepped down as WestJet's CEO and was replaced by former Air Ontario executive Steve Smith. In July 1999, WestJet made its initial public offering of stock at 2.5 million shares, opening at $10 per share. The same year, the cities of Thunder Bay, Grande Prairie, and Prince George were added to WestJet's route map.
In 2000, WestJet CEO Steve Smith was released from WestJet after 18 months in the position, apparently due to differences about management style; Smith went on to head rival Air Canada's low-cost subsidiary Zip. After Smith's departure, Clive Beddoe again became CEO of the company, a position he held until July 2007.
Early 2000s: Domestic expansion
Due to restructuring in the Canadian airline industry resulting from Air Canada's takeover of Canadian Airlines in 2000, WestJet expanded into Eastern Canada, beginning service to the cities of Hamilton and Ottawa, Ontario and Moncton, New Brunswick. The airline selected John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport to be the focus of its Eastern Canadian operations and its main connection point in Eastern Canada.
In 2001, WestJet's expansion continued with routes to Fort McMurray and Comox. It also added Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, Ontario, Thompson and Brandon, Manitoba; however, service to each of these four cities has since been withdrawn. Service to Brandon, Manitoba and Sudbury, Ontario, was subsequently resumed by WestJet's wholly owned subsidiary, WestJet Encore.
In 2002, the airline also added another two new Eastern Canadian destinations: the Ontario cities of London and Toronto. In April 2003, WestJet added Windsor, Montreal, Halifax, St. John's and Gander.
WestJet entered into a two-year agreement with Air Transat in August 2003 whereby WestJet aircraft would be filled by Transat's two main tour operators, World of Vacations and Transat Holidays. These chartered flights operated largely to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean and the planes were operated by WestJet crews. This agreement between WestJet and Air Transat was amicably terminated in February, 2009.
In 2004, rival airline Air Canada accused WestJet of industrial espionage and filed a civil suit against WestJet in Ontario Superior Court. Air Canada accused WestJet of accessing Air Canada confidential information via a private website in order to gain a business advantage. On May 29, 2006 WestJet admitted to the charges leveled by Air Canada and agreed to pay C$5.5 million in legal and investigation fees to Air Canada and donate C$10 million to various children's charities in the names of Air Canada and WestJet.
Mid-2000s: International expansion
In January 2004, WestJet announced that it was moving the focus of its Eastern operations from Hamilton to Toronto the following April, fully moving into the lucrative Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal triangle and tripling the total number of its flights out of Toronto Pearson International Airport.
In early 2005, Palm Springs and San Diego were added to the company's list of destinations, while New York-LaGuardia was dropped. In April 2005, they announced new seasonal service to Charlottetown and ceased service to Gander. In fall 2005, Ft. Myers and Las Vegas were added to the growing list of destinations.
After rumours and speculation surrounding the implementation of extended-range twin-engine operations (ETOPS), WestJet announced new service to the Hawaiian Islands from Vancouver on September 20, 2005. In December 2005, the airline began flying from Vancouver to Honolulu and Maui.
WestJet's first scheduled service outside Canada and the United States began in 2006, to Nassau, Bahamas. This was considered a huge milestone within the company's long-term destination strategy and was a vital goal for future international market presence.
In September 2006, Sean Durfy took over as President of WestJet from founder Clive Beddoe.
On October 26, 2006, WestJet announced that it had its best quarterly profit to date, of C$52.8 million.
Late 2000s: Continued growth
In 2007, WestJet announced that they would begin flights from Deer Lake Regional Airport in Newfoundland, Saint John in New Brunswick and Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario. In June 2007, WestJet added seven new international seasonal flights to Saint Lucia, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Mexico as well as a third Hawaiian destination; Kona.
The same year, WestJet commissioned the construction of a new six-storey head office building, next to their existing hangar facility at the Calgary International Airport. The building was constructed following the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, featuring a rainwater retention system and geothermal heating. The first employees moved in during the first quarter of 2009, and the building officially opened the following May. The WestJet Campus building was certified as LEED Gold standard in October 2011.
In May 2008, WestJet launched daily non-stop service to Quebec City. The next month, WestJet commenced seasonal service between Calgary and New York City via Newark Liberty International Airport. In May 2009, the airline launched new seasonal service to the cities of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories and Sydney, Nova Scotia; service to Yellowknife was later extended through the winter of 2009-10.
During the 2000s (decade), WestJet made significant gains in domestic market share against Air Canada. In 2000 it held only 7% to Air Canada's 77%, though by the end of 2009 WestJet had risen to 38%, against Air Canada's 55%.
In late April 2009, WestJet temporarily suspended service to several of its destinations in Mexico due to the outbreak of influenza A (H1N1) in the country. The suspension of service to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta lasted from early May until mid-June, with seasonal service to Cancún being restored the following fall.
In July 2009, WestJet announced 11 new international destinations for its winter schedule. These included expanded service to the United States, to Atlantic City, New Jersey, Lihue (Kauai), Hawaii and Miami, Florida. New Caribbean destinations included Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands; St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles; Freeport, Bahamas; as well as the cities of Varadero, Holguín and Cayo Coco in Cuba. Ixtapa and Cozumel were also added to the list of destinations served in Mexico.
Early 2010s: Overseas expansion
In March 2010, Sean Durfy resigned from his position as WestJet's CEO, citing personal reasons. He was replaced by Gregg Saretsky, a former executive at Canadian Airlines and Alaska Airlines and previously Vice-President of WestJet Vacations and Executive Vice-President of Operations.
In July 2010 WestJet announced service to Santa Clara, Cuba, New Orleans and Grand Cayman bringing the total number of destinations to 71. Service to New Orleans lasted only one season and did not return the next year.
In late 2010 WestJet announced it was wet leasing a Boeing 757 aircraft to expand service between Calgary to Honolulu and Maui and Edmonton to Maui, on a seasonal basis.
Also that year, the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), an independent administrative tribunal of the Government of Canada that regulates airlines, found WestJet's baggage policies to be unreasonable and/or contrary to the requirements of the Canada Transportation Act and/or the Air Transport Regulations on several different occasions.
On January 26, 2011, after Air Canada terminated California service, WestJet announced plans to enter service to John Wayne Airport in Orange County, California from Vancouver and Calgary starting May of that year.
In November 2011 WestJet won an auction for time slots at New York's LaGuardia Airport ushering in a return to service to New York. Details of WestJet's scheduled service to LaGuardia were officially announced in January 2012. From 2012 to 2014, WestJet further expanded into the United States by adding Chicago via O'Hare International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Myrtle Beach International Airport, and New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport.
In January 2014, WestJet chartered an Atlas Air Boeing 747-400 to transport stranded passengers and luggage during the 2013 Central and Eastern Canada ice storm. The charter flew from Lester B. Pearson International Airport to Calgary International Airport.
On July 7, 2014, WestJet announced that they were in the "advanced stages of sourcing" four wide-body aircraft that would begin flying by the fall of 2015. These would initially serve on the seasonal Alberta-Hawaii routes when WestJet's service agreement with Thomas Cook Airlines—who currently fly these routes on behalf of WestJet—expires in the spring of 2015. WestJet would take delivery of four Boeing 767-300ERs in summer 2015. WestJet took delivery of the first of these aircraft on August 27, 2015.
On June 16, 2015, WestJet announced to launch service to London's Gatwick Airport which began on May 6, 2016. It is the carrier's third transatlantic destination after Dublin and Glasgow. The majority of flights to London uses the wide-body Boeing 767-300ER aircraft. On September 15, 2015, WestJet flights to London direct from Edmonton, St. John's, Vancouver, Winnipeg (seasonal) Calgary and Toronto (year-round) went on sale to the public. During winter months, WestJet continues to serve the seasonal Edmonton - Maui, Calgary - Honolulu, and Calgary - Maui flights with the 767-300ER aircraft.
Late 2010s: Transition to full service carrier
In April 2017, WestJet announced plans to launch an ultra low-cost carrier in late 2017. The new airline will operate using Boeing 737-800 aircraft, and compete with new entrants to the market, such as Flair Airlines. The launch of the new airline, to be named Swoop, has been delayed until 2018.
On May 10, 2018, WestJet's unionized pilots voted 91 percent in favour of strike action. The key issue in negotiations is outsourcing work to operate the new Swoop carriers. On May 25, 2018, WestJet and the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) agreed to a settlement process through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
On May 14, 2018 WestJet announced new Premium Economy seats to replace the Plus seats, their current premium economy offering. The new seats will feature a wider 2-2 configuration on the Boeing 737 aircraft. Entry into service on the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft is planned for fall 2018, and the rest of the Boeing 737's will follow in 2019.
Ownership and structure
WestJet is operated by WestJet Airlines Ltd., a public company, incorporated and domiciled in Canada. Its shares are publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the symbol WJA. The parent company's accounts include various directly wholly owned subsidiaries, also incorporated in Canada, including WestJet Vacations Inc. and WestJet Encore Ltd.
WestJet Encore is WestJet's affiliated regional airline, which commenced operations on June 24, 2013, with a fleet of Bombardier Q400 twin-turboprop aircraft. WestJet Encore was granted its separate Air Operator Certificate from Transport Canada, on June 12, 2013. It was set up to serve smaller communities in Canada.
WestJet Link is a subsidiary of WestJet launched in June 2018. Operated by Pacific Coastal Airlines, WestJet Link service from the parent airline's hub at Calgary to smaller communities, using Saab 340B aircraft which are smaller than the Q400 aircraft operated by Encore. Although operated by Pacific Coastal, WestJet Link aircraft will be painted in WestJet colours.
Swoop is a new affiliated airline of WestJet that aims to be an ultra low-cost carrier (ULCC). It was officially announced on September 27, 2017, and commenced operations on June 20, 2018. Swoop currently operates a fleet of 4 Boeing 737-800 aircraft, with plans to expand to 6 by the end of 2018 and to 10 in 2019.
The key trends for the WestJet group (including WestJet Encore) are (years ending December 31):
|Net profit after tax (C$m)||242||269||317||368||295||284|
|Number of employees (FTE at year end)||7,742||8,000||8,698||9,211||9,988||11,089|
|Number of passengers (m)||17.4||18.5||19.7||20.3||22.0||24.1|
|Passenger load factor (%)||82.8||81.7||81.4||80.0||81.8||83.6|
|Number of aircraft (at year end)||100||113||122||140||153||168|
WestJet and WestJet Encore currently fly to 100 destinations in 20 countries throughout North and Central America, the Caribbean and Europe including 36 cities in Canada and 21 in the United States. WestJet's largest hub in terms of daily departures is Toronto Pearson International Airport, the airline's main connection point in Eastern Canada and Calgary International Airport, the airlines main connection point in western Canada.
WestJet provides the most Canadian flights to Las Vegas and Orlando, offering non-stop routes (some of them seasonal) from eleven Canadian cities to Orlando and nine to Las Vegas. Since 2008, WestJet is the largest international carrier, by volume of passengers, flying into Las Vegas. WestJet also serves 20 destinations in the Caribbean and seven in Mexico, some on a seasonal basis.
Alliances and codeshare agreements
In 1999, WestJet was in talks regarding a possible 'feeder' arrangement for Air Canada's network. These talks were apparently discontinued when Air Canada went forward with acquisition of Canadian Airlines the following year.
In 2005, WestJet began a limited interline agreement with Taiwan-based China Airlines, in part to test the company's capability to partner with other carriers.
In August 2006, in a Globe and Mail interview, then-WestJet CEO Sean Durfy stated that WestJet was in talks with Oneworld. Durfy said that, if a deal with Oneworld were reached, it would allow WestJet to maintain its scheduling flexibility; Durfy was later quoted in 2007 saying that a deal for WestJet to join the Oneworld alliance was unlikely. Despite this, WestJet did formalize a deal with Oneworld in November 2008, to partner on sales of travel to corporate and business travelers.
In July 2008 WestJet announced it had signed a memorandum of understanding to build a distribution and codeshare agreement with U.S.-based Southwest Airlines. However, in April 2010 WestJet announced that the airline partnership with Southwest Airlines was terminated and in October 2010, WestJet partnered with American Airlines instead and later added Delta Air Lines. In light of a possible joint venture between WestJet and Delta, American and WestJet ceased their codeshare agreement on July 31, 2018.
WestJet codeshares with the following airlines:
Joint venture with Delta Air Lines
On December 6, 2017, WestJet and Delta Air Lines signed a preliminary memorandum of understanding to extend their current codeshare agreement into a joint venture, pending regulatory and board approval.
On July 19, 2018, WestJet and Delta Air Lines signed a definitive 10-year agreement into a joint venture between the two airlines. This joint venture will serve more than 95 percent of the Canada-U.S. demand. The airlines' current frequent flier programs will also be updated to be more closely aligned, and the airlines will be co-located at key hub airports.
|Boeing 737 MAX 7||—||22||—||12||134||146||Deliveries begin 2021.|
|Boeing 737 MAX 8||8||14||—||12||162||174|
|Boeing 737 MAX 10||—||12||TBA||Deliveries begin 2022.|
|Boeing 767-300ER||4||—||—||24||238||262||Former Qantas fleet|
|Boeing 787-9||—||10||TBA||Ordered with 10 options|
Deliveries begin 2019.
The mainline fleet currently consists exclusively of Boeing aircraft, while wholly owned subsidiary Encore flies Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s. 20 examples were originally ordered with options for up to 25 more. The first two examples were delivered in mid-June 2013. Scheduled passenger service on these aircraft began on June 24, 2013. The first Boeing 737-700 delivery took place in 2001, and the first deliveries of Boeing 737-600 and Boeing 737-800 aircraft began in 2005, with the final 737-600 aircraft delivered in September 2006.
Boeing confirmed on August 2, 2007 that WestJet had placed an order for 23 Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft. The order was primarily for Boeing 737-700 but with conversion rights to Boeing 737-800s.
WestJet was to be the Boeing launch customer for the winglets on the 737-600, but announced in their second-quarter 2006 results that they were not going to move ahead with those plans. WestJet CEO Clive Beddoe cited the cost and time associated with their installation was not warranted as they are primarily used for short-haul routes. As a result of the abandonment of the program to install winglets on these aircraft, WestJet incurred a one-time charge of approximately $609,000.
In the winter season, WestJet has temporarily wet leased Boeing 757 aircraft to expand service between Alberta and Hawaii. From February through April 2011, a single aircraft was leased from North American Airlines for this purpose; in the winter of 2011-12, a single aircraft was leased from Thomas Cook Airlines. For the winter seasons from 2012 to 2015, this has been expanded to two Thomas Cook aircraft. In April 2013, it was announced that WestJet would sell 10 of their oldest 737-700s to Southwest Airlines, and purchase 10 737-800s to modernize and increase capacity of their fleet.
In May 2014, CEO Gregg Saretsky announced that WestJet was considering acquiring wide-body aircraft to operate long-haul international routes. By July of the same year, Saretsky confirmed that wide-body service would begin in 2015. In late June 2014, WestJet announced that the wide-body aircraft were to be Boeing 767-300ER with four used airframes acquired from Qantas. The four Boeing 767s are of an average 25 years old, which means that they need frequent repairs and downtime for sourcing parts. This resulted in a poor on-time performance of 38 percent in 2016, costing the airline approximately $5 million in the second quarter of 2016. In 2017, Westjet reduced the number of flights from Winnipeg and Edmonton to reduce utilization of the planes for the summer 2017, to cope with any unforeseen delays or cancellations.
In late December 2016, 77% of WestJet pilots approved a new deal that will increase pay for pilots flying wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 767, Airbus 330 and 787. In a statement, the airline said that they were seeking more large aircraft with the intention of adding new destinations. Saretsky also stated that he hoped for wide-body growth to be responsible, but quick. As of May 2, 2017, WestJet announced the purchase of up to 20 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft; 10 are firm orders with deliveries from 2019 through 2021, and 10 are options for delivery between 2020 and 2024.
In early 2005 it was announced that the Boeing 737-200 fleet would be retired and replaced by newer, more fuel-efficient 737 Next Generation series aircraft. On July 12, 2005, WestJet announced that it had completed the sale of its remaining Boeing 737-200 to Miami-based Apollo Aviation Group.
On January 9, 2006, the last Boeing 737-200 was flown during a fly-by ceremony at the WestJet hangar in Calgary, piloted by WestJet founder Don Bell and was a charter flight from Las Vegas to Calgary.
In 2003 and 2004, WestJet donated two of its 737-200s to post-secondary schools in western Canada, one to the British Columbia Institute of Technology and a second to the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology's Art Smith Aero Centre.
WestJet's aircraft are painted white except for the lettering on the fuselage, wings and vertical stabilizer, except for special examples as noted below.
The tail is divided roughly into slanted thirds, coloured (from front to back) navy blue, white and teal. This pattern is used on the outside of the blended winglets at the end of the wings while, on the inside, the winglets are painted white with "WestJet.com" in dark blue lettering.
In February 2010 WestJet introduced a special livery on one Boeing 737-800 aircraft promoting its customer-service promise, or "Care-antee", in both English and French. This aircraft also featured a new tail design. In 2013, the Care-antee aircraft underwent a second livery change in partnership with Disney, featuring Mickey Mouse from the movie Fantasia and adopting the name "Magic Plane". A second Disney aircraft was completed in 2015, named "Frozen Plane", with characters Elsa and Anna on the vertical stabilizer and a similar theme in the cabin.
In May 2018, WestJet unveiled a new livery, the first significant change since the inception of the company. It includes a new font for the word "WestJet"; written across the middle of the aircraft fuselage is "The Spirit of Canada" on the port side and "L'esprit du Canada" on the starboard side. An updated, stylized maple leaf on the aircraft tail is also included.
In 2005, WestJet introduced in-flight entertainment (IFE) from LiveTV on board its 737-700 and -800 fleet. The system utilizes the Bell TV satellite network and channels include Global TV, CTV, CBS, Citytv, Treehouse TV, ABC, NBC, CBC, TSN and a WestJet Channel, which shows a regional map with the aircraft's location, GPS derived altitude and groundspeed. WestJet added LiveTV onto their 737-600 aircraft beginning in the 2007/2008 Winter season.
In 2011 Bell TV suddenly cut their satellite coverage outside Canada, so all new aircraft did not have the LiveTV product installed while the new IFE system was being planned. Instead, WestJet temporarily installed Samsung Tablets with prerecorded TV Shows and Movies during the transition. The LiveTV system will continue to be active until the fleet has been outfitted with the new Panasonic airline entertainment system.
WestJet includes a buy on board meal service with sandwiches, alcoholic beverages and snacks for purchase. In some markets, the sandwiches offered on board are made by local delis in the departure city (such as the Bread Garden in Vancouver, Spolumbo's in Calgary and DiRienzo's in Ottawa).
In December 2013, it was announced that WestJet was in the final negotiation stages of a new in flight entertainment system which will feature WiFi on board its aircraft. By February 2014, the final plans were released, featuring Panasonic's airline entertainment system. The new IFE (called WestJet Connect) includes live streaming TV channels, packaged TV series, movies, magazines, games, USB, 110 volt power outlets and WiFi. The system can be accessed through personal web-enabled devices. System installation began by the end of 2014. As of January 2018, WestJet Connect is installed on 85% of WestJet's fleet, with the 737-600's notably still using the old LiveTV IFE.
- Calgary (3) - Chinook Lounge (Domestic), Aspire Lounge (Transborder)
- Edmonton (2) - Plaza Premium Lounge (Domestic/Intl), Plaza Premium Lounge (Transborder)
- Kingston, Jamaica - Club Kingston
- London (2) - My Lounge, No1 Lounge
- Montego Bay, Jamaica - Club MoBay
- Montreal - National Bank World MasterCard Lounge (Intl)
- Quebec City - V.I.P. Lounge
- Toronto (2) - Plaza Premium Lounge (Domestic), Plaza Premium Lounge (Intl)
- Vancouver (4) - Plaza Premium Lounge (Domestic, Pier B), Plaza Premium Lounge (Domestic, Pier C), Plaza Premium Lounge (Transborder), Plaza Premium (Intl)
- Winnipeg - Plaza Premium Lounge (Domestic)
Awards and recognition
- In 2000, Clive Beddoe, Mark Hill, Tim Morgan and Donald Bell were given the Ernst & Young company's Entrepreneur of the Year award in Canada for their contribution to the Canadian airline industry.
- In October 2008, WestJet was named one of Alberta's Top Employers by Mediacorp Canada Inc., which was announced by the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal.
- A 2009 poll by Léger Marketing found that WestJet is Canada's preferred airline.
- WestJet came in first place in the Airline Staff Service Excellence (North America) and second place in the Best Low-Cost Airline (North America) categories at the 2010 World Airline Awards.
- WestJet was ranked #5 in the 2017 Top Mid-Size & Low Cost Airlines in North America in TripAdvisor's Travelers' Choice Awards.
- WestJet was recognized as Canada's Best Airline in 2016 and 2017 in TripAdvisor's Traveller's Choice Awards.
- WestJet was named the Best Low-Cost Airline in North America in the 2018 Skytrax Awards
- WestJet was named the #6 Best Low Cost Airline Worldwide in the 2018 Skytrax Awards
- WestJet was named the #5 Best Airline in North America in the 2018 Skytrax Awards
Accidents and incidents
- June 5, 2015 - WestJet Flight 588, a Boeing 737-600 (registration C-GWCT) flying from Toronto Pearson International Airport overran the runway into grass at Montreal Trudeau International Airport during heavy rain. The aircraft was not damaged.
- January 5, 2018 - WestJet Flight 2425, a Boeing 737 flight from Cancun to Toronto, was struck while parked and on approach to the gate by a Sunwing Airlines Boeing 737 being towed at Toronto Pearson International Airport. A fire on the Sunwing aircraft's tail was put out by fire crews at the airport. 168 passengers and 6 crew were onboard the WestJet aircraft and were evacuated but none were injured; the Sunwing aircraft had no passengers as it was being re-positioned.
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