WestJet sees Calgary and Toronto as centres for its new regional carrier

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Published: February 2, 2012

Management at WestJet today disclosed that its proposed new regional subsidiary would be centred in Calgary and Toronto.

WestJet last month unveiled its desire to launch a new turboprop operation to serve smaller Canadian cities and its employees are currently voting on the plan.

“We’re wrapping up the voting in a few days and our board will make a decision in the coming weeks,” the carrier told FlightglobalPro.

Carrier CEO Gregg Saretsky told attendees at the Raymond James Global Airline conference on 2 February the new subsidiary would have a national footprint with two operations, one centred in Calgary and the other in Toronto to serve domestic and transborder city pairs.

The new operation will have a three-pronged strategy, said Saretsky – targeting new destinations with a single competitor that charges monopoly fares, joining the dots on its own route map and schedule improvements to increase frequencies during off-peak times with smaller gauge aircraft operating with lower trip costs.

Saretsky said WestJet is really building “something here for business travellers that provides them more utility”.

WestJet concludes there are 30 Canadian cities too small for the Boeing 737s it currently operates, and where fares on stage lengths of under one hour are upwards of $ 1,200 roundtrip.

Saretsky explained WestJet’s highest fare on a coast-to-coast flight in Canada is $ 600 one way, and there are markets from Canada to the north eastern US that are 45 minutes to one hour, “where you’ll pay $ 1,500 one way”.

WestJet believes it can successfully replicate its low-fare model into the regional space and create a new stream of traffic to connect those small cities to its hubs, allowing for additional growth of its 737 fleet, Saretsky said.

The regional operation would be a separate subsidiary owned by WestJet, with roughly 40-plus 70-seat turbroprops. Saretsky mentioned both the Bombardier Q400 and the ATR 72-600 as possible airframes.

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