WestJet To Launch Regional Subsidiary

 - January 17, 2012, 10:38 AM
WestJet flies a uniform fleet of Boeing 737s, including a leased 737-800 just delivered from Boeing last month, to 71 destinations in Canada and the U.S. (Photo: Boeing)

Calgary, Canada-based low-fare airline WestJet yesterday confirmed that it considering the launch of a new short-haul, regional airline as early as next year, using a fleet of some 40 “smaller” turboprop aircraft.

“This is an exciting consideration for WestJetters,” said WestJet president and CEO Gregg Saretsky, referring to WestJet employees. “We are meeting with WestJetters throughout January to get their input on this watershed decision. One of the cornerstones of our success is engaging with employees early on in key decisions, and I am confident they will see the strategic value of this initiative. Once our employees have had the opportunity to share their input, we will be in a better position to make a sound decision rooted in employee feedback and engagement.”

Saretsky noted that the Boeing 737 operator has regularly evaluated a strategy aimed at adding a second fleet type for a short-haul operation to create new connections between some of WestJet’s existing 71 markets and build feed for its hubs in Calgary and Toronto, as well as its so-called focus cities of Edmonton, Winnipeg and Vancouver.

The new operation—presumably using either Bombardier Q400s or ATR 72s—would present Air Canada Express and Porter Airlines with some formidable competition for second-tier cities in Canada and the northern U.S. Saretsky expects WestJet to finish its consultations with employees in early February.

Separately, WestJet and Delta Air Airlines today announced a new code-share agreement between the two carriers starting January 23. Under the first phase of the deal Delta will place its code on WestJet to more than 15 cities, while WestJet adds its code to Delta flights in five markets, expanding the networks of both airlines for customers flying between the U.S. and Canada.