What WestJet's new Bombarider Q400 will look like. Image from Bombardier.

What WestJet’s new Bombarider Q400 will look like. Image from Bombardier.

WestJet has announced their plan to start a regional airline using Bombardier Q400s. This is by no means breaking news, but a story that somehow I missed and have been playing catch up and wanted to share some of the things that I have learned.

For those of you who might not be aware of WestJet, they are a low cost carrier, based at Calgary International Airport (YYC) in Alberta, Canada. Previously, they only operated a fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft in an all-economy layout.

In January of this year, WestJet stated that they were looking into starting up a smaller subset of their almost 100 fleet of 737s. At the time, WestJet President and CEO, Gregg Saretsky, stated, “A short-haul aircraft combined with WestJet’s brand, balance sheet strength and low-cost structure will allow WestJet to profitably accomplish four main goals: Introduce WestJet’s friendly and caring service to many smaller communities who have asked for our service; optimize the size of aircraft to efficiently increase frequency; create new connections between existing WestJet markets; and build additional feed to our current 71-city network so that we can continue to profitably grow and add shareholder value.”

The airline’s management talked with employees and in February, the airline announced that 91% of employees voted in favor to launch the regional airline. I would imagine that WestJet employees do not have a union is one reason the high number.

Then, the fun part came; which aircraft to buy? Although the photos of the Bombardier Q400 in WestJet livery on this story gives away the answer, they were also considering the ATR 72-600.

What WestJet's new Bombarider Q400 will look like. Image from Bombardier.

What WestJet’s new Bombarider Q400 will look like. Image from Bombardier.

“We are very impressed with the Q400,” Saretsky stated in a press release. “Both ATR and Bombardier put forward excellent proposals and ultimately we believe the Bombardier Q400’s combination of range, speed and seat density is the best choice to meet the needs of the market and how we plan to operate the regional airline.”

WestJet signed a letter of intent to purchase 20 Q400s with the option to purchase an additional 25 aircraft. The airline hopes to start regional service in 2013.

I was curious how the new Q400s would operate in the WestJet fleet and would there be a different customer service product on the Q400?

“The two airlines will operate under separate certificates. However, they will both be WestJet in every respect — culture, guest experience and even livery,” Robert Palmer, spokesperson for WestJet explained to AirlineReporter.com.

The Q400s will be used on flights lasting about one to two hours and the 737s will fly on longer routes. Both airlines will cover domestic and trans-boarder flying and the Q400s will act as a feeder system for the mainline 737s. Palmer also stated that the Q400s might be placed on current routes that have less demand and free up a 737 for additional service.

On top of starting regional service, WestJet has also stated that they will start offering premium economy seating. Each aircraft will have four rows of seats with 36″ of seat pitch and the addition of priority boarding and complimentary on-board amenities.

With Southwest Airlines flying to larger airports and bringing on the 737-800, Allegiant going from one aircraft type to three and WestJet adding regional service and premium seating, it is anyone’s guess what these low cost carriers will do next.

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: [email protected]

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5 Comments

i always cringe when i hear WestJet being considered an LCC. their fares are not LCC and instead usually similar to Air Canada.

Southwest is often as much or more than United, American, US, etc, but they are still called a LCC for some reason I don’t understand.

Agreed. Sames prices and general lack of in-flight amenities as AC, but you get no mileage and you have to pay for in-flight entertainment.

WestJet is also the unofficial airline of Ma and Pa Kettle in Canada.

I’ve only flown Westjet a couple of times (Vancouver/Honolulu – B737-800) and found their staff to be welcoming friendly and helpful, it was their privilege to have you aboard. The aircraft was comfortable with leather seats and more than adequate legroom for my 6ft frame. The fare was also a lot less than the competition. On the way back we had a 6hr overnight delay because of snow in Vancouver. At 4:00am the staff arrived with Pizza Hut pizza’s and soft drinks for everyone which was a pleasant surprise. The Air Canada passengers in the gate lounge next door got nothing and saw no one all night! Didn’t I read somewhere that all the Westjet staff are also shareholders?

On the other hand, I’ve flown Air Canada trans-Atlantic and trans-border many times over the years and their staff always left me with the feeling that it was my privilege to fly with them rather than the other way round. I also recall that the aircraft cabins (B767-200/300ER’s & A330-300’s at that time) always looked rather tired and worn. I now fly KLM over Amsterdam and I won’t fly Air Canada again unless there is absolutely no alternative.

I wish Westjet luck with their new regional services and I’m sure people will fly with them, especially where the competition is Jazz Air

James Burke

It will be very interesting to see the routes that a ‘WestJet Regional’ will fly. I know that people used to flying YWG-YYC-YQR will be excited that WS will likely be connecting some cities that could use more than what is currently there. Some places like Chicoutimi QC will benefit with more competition. I have heard that small airports without meaningful scheduled service are courting WS, such as Prince Albert SK (YPA), Brandon MB (YBR) and Sherbrooke QC (YSB). The economics of the Q400 could link these cities into the greater air grid and save a lot of hours on the road.

Ken – yes, WestJet staff are shareholders. It has been a central theme in marketing for them over the years.

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