Air Canada accuses carrier WestJet of
The Canadian Press
TORONTO - Air Canada alleges that WestJet Airlines Ltd. ran an
espionage campaign code-named the 007 Project to steal confidential data
from the larger carrier's "evil empire," allowing WestJet to
strategically launch flights to the United States.
In new court filings, Air Canada further alleges that WestJet's snooping was
designed in part to thwart the Montreal-based carrier's emergence from
Not only did WestJet spy on Air Canada and defunct Jetsgo Corp., but it also
gained access to secret statistics at CanJet Airlines of Halifax, according
to documents filed in the Ontario Superior Court.
Air Canada said the latest revelations came to light after court-appointed
forensic auditors scrutinized hard drives seized from Calgary-based WestJet.
In April last year, Air Canada launched a $220 million lawsuit accusing
WestJet of corporate espionage. WestJet denies any wrongdoing and none of
the allegations have been proven in court.
Air Canada sought protection in April, 2003, under the Companies' Creditors
Arrangement Act, and emerged from bankruptcy protection in September, 2004.
Benjamin Smith, Air Canada's vice-president of planning, said in an
affidavit that WestJet "attempted to undermine" the CCAA process.
Smith attached 24 exhibits to his affidavit, including a copy of an email
exchange between WestJet co-founders Mark Hill and Clive Beddoe, WestJet's
chairman and chief executive officer.
Hill said in an email from his BlackBerry, dated Sept. 11, 2003, that
WestJet obtained a list of Air Canada's 200 weakest routes.
If WestJet were to leak such information, "AC would have some serious
back-tracking and explaining to do to potential investors, and would further
weaken their credibility in all quarters," Hill said.
Another email written by Hill, WestJet's former vice-president of strategic
planning who resigned from the airline in mid-2004, points to the "evil
empire" database, referring to Air Canada's load factors, or the
proportion of available seats filled.
Code words used in the subject fields of emails included "Schtuff"
and "Wayne," to alert recipients that the topic would be the 007
Various emails show that Air Canada's confidential data was used by WestJet
to help plan transborder flights to the United States from Canada, Smith
Forensic auditors have determined that Hill "was analyzing the
plaintiff's confidential employee website information in order to assist
WestJet in expanding its routes into the United States," Smith said.
Smith alleges WestJet gained access to confidential data from CanJet and
Jetsgo, and that WestJet found it "both useful and valuable" to
obtain Air Canada's "real-time, flight-specific" information.
He added that Hill sent an email "thoroughly analyzing Jetsgo's,
CanJet's and Air Canada's load factors into Florida's destinations" in
an effort to plot WestJet's new flights.
Air Canada alleges that WestJet's 007 Project grew increasingly
sophisticated as the discount carrier found a way to automate "the
accessing and analyzing" of Air Canada's internal data.
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