This morning at 11:28 AM (Mountain Time), Westjet Encore‘s first passenger flight left Calgary, Alberta (YYC) for Nanaimo, BC (YCD). The flight was operated by one of the two 78-seat Bombardier Q400s that Westjet Encore has received from their initial order of 20 planes. The other initial destinations for this soon-to-be-growing regional airline are Fort St. John, Victoria and Vancouver, BC, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Brandon, Manitoba will be added in early September. They’ll continue to grow as another 5 Q400s come into the fleet before year-end.
It’s clear that Westjet has positioned their new airline to try and break the monopoly that Air Canada Express (Jazz Aviation/Chorus Aviation) has enjoyed over the years in many smaller Canadian communities. In fact, Ferio Puglieses, the new airline’s President, is pretty blunt about their objectives: “WestJet Encore is here to liberate smaller communities from the high cost of regional air travel while continuing to provide every guest with our award winning culture of care.”
It’s going to be interesting to see how Air Canada Express responds. It seems they’ve started the process to upgrade their aging DHC-8-100 & -300 turboprop fleet by adding Q400s. Will the competition bring fares down and service up? Time will tell.
So will Westjet Encore just be a Calgary-based, Western-Canada regional? Not a chance. As Westjet CEO Gregg Saretsky recently said “We’re starting from our headquarters in Calgary, and one province at a time, we’re going to continue marching east.”
And what will happen when that march takes them to Toronto’s Billy Bishop City Airport, home of Porter Airlines? Well, Mr. Saretsky was pretty clear about his intentions: “Until today we haven’t had an aircraft that can go into the airport so we’ve been an innocent bystander. Right now there are no slots available at the Toronto Island airport, but we’re watching and we’ll be ready when the opportunity presents itself.” Indeed.
Let’s see, both Westjet Encore and Porter Airlines fly Q400s, and both compete with Air Canada Express. Westjet Encore is starting off in the west, and Porter has an established network in the east. Hmmmmm…isn’t it fun to speculate what might happen?
On a serious note – our thoughts go out to the Westjetters at Calgary HQ and their families, and everyone who is dealing with the devastating floods in the region.
|This story written by… Howard Slutsken, Correspondent. Howard has been an AvGeek since he was a kid, watching TCA Super Connies, Viscounts and early jets at Montreal’s Dorval Airport. He’s a pilot who loves to fly gliders and pretty well anything else with wings. Howard is based in Vancouver, BC.@HowardSlutsken|