WestJet's Encore's first flight WJ3109 leaves Calgary. Image from WestJet / Instagram.

WestJet’s Encore’s first flight WJ3109 leaves Calgary. Image from WestJet / Instagram.

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.”

Westjet Encore Bombardier Q400 Courtesy: Westjet Encore

Westjet Encore Bombardier Q400. Courtesy: Westjet Encore

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



CORRESPONDENT - VANCOUVER, BC. Howard's lifelong passion for aviation began when he was a kid, watching TCA Super Connies, Viscounts, and early jets at Montreal's Dorval Airport. Heâ€s based in Vancouver, BC, so when Howard isnâ€t writing, heâ€s probably plane-spotting at YVR, PAE, BFI or SEA.

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Are they working with Travel Agents, and of so, what are they paying for commission? Or are they continuing to be slimy and trying to go direct like Zoom?

Howard Slutsken

John, it looks like Westjet Encore’s flights are fully integrated into Westjet’s website, similar to Horizon/Alaska. On their blog, Westjet says that they “value their travel agent partners”, so I wouldn’t expect any difference with the new airline.

James Burke

I am very interested to see what they do in Eastern Canada. I would like to see WS at YTZ, but where do they fly to? WIthout pre-clearance, they can’t do LGA, there is a ton of capacity to YUL between PD and AC, maybe YOW? I wonder if they start niche routes like Sherbrooke, or Sarnia, but then again, there is no connectivity for WS there. PD has built a nice little network that isn’t just XXX-YTZ O&D… I will be watching intently…

Howard Slutsken

Thanks for the comment, James. I’m thinking it might take as long to get pre-clearance at YTZ as it took to build the tunnel! But if it ever happens, that’ll change the game for all of the carriers at the airport.

It’s fun to guess what routes WJ would fly. WJ says the march to Toronto could take 18 – 24 months…stay tuned!

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