WestJet is confirming plans to launch a subsidiary operating 40 or so turboprops and may start service as soon as next year.
Few details are being disclosed, although WestJet Chairman Clive Beddoe says the new airline will be a separate entity, rather than an extension of theoperator’s current fleet. Like WestJet, the new airline will operate only one aircraft type, although WestJet is not saying which airframe it intends to use.
According to President and CEO Gregg Saretsky, the company has “regularly evaluated” the concept but will hold meetings with staff to discuss the venture before proceeding. “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,” says Saretsky.
Combining a short-haul aircraft and WestJet’s brand, balance sheet and cost structure will enable the carrier to accomplish four goals: introduce service to smaller communities; optimize aircraft size to increase service; create new connections between existing WestJet markets; and build additional feed to the carrier’s current 71-city network, the CEO says.
The launch confirmation is not a surprise, although some observers expected WestJet to expand into long-haul leisure markets and possiblyor before increasing its domestic footprint. A long-haul operation is still expected, although the time frame is unknown.
WestJet this week also solidified its relationship with U.S. operatorvia the formal unveiling of a code-share accord that will start Jan. 23. Under the first phase of this deal, Delta will place its ‘DL’ designator code on more than 20 WestJet routes from Toronto Pearson International, Calgary International, Vancouver International, Edmonton International, Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International and Halifax Stanfield International airports.
Many of these flights are domestic, although the code-share includes services to Las Vegas McCarran International and Honolulu International airports.
WestJet’s ‘WS’ code, meanwhile, is going on five Delta routes into Canada—four from its hub at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport and one fromInternational.
The code-share also includes a reciprocal arrangement to earn and redeem frequent flyer rewards on these flights.