The airline recently accepted suggestions on the regional carrier’s name from its employees. While there are no hints yet on what the new airline will be called, Saretsky says WestJet is looking for a name “that represents the national footprint, that is easily translatable”.
The name aside, the new carrier will feature WestJet’s branding strongly. The Q400s will be painted in WestJet’s livery, feature WestJet’s leather seats and the new airline’s name will only make an appearance in distribution systems and flight announcements as the operating carrier. Flights by the regional carrier will still carry WestJet’s code and airline check-in counters will bear WestJet’s signage, says Saretsky.
WestJet expects to add about 1,800 new staff to run the regional arm, and staff uniforms will bear a strong resemblance to those worn by WestJet staff.
“We are trying to keep them as similar as possible, maybe they will have a small differentiating feature, like a different coloured scarf, or a different wing on their lapel,” says Saretsky.
Despite adding a level of complexity to WestJet’s business model, Saretsky thinks there are no major challenges faced by the airline in rolling out the new regional subsidiary. There could be some uncertainty over the timing of the issue of the air operator’s certificate and the aircraft delivery schedule, but Saretsky says he is not anticipating problems.
“We are a brand new customer for them [Bombardier], so we don’t have experience with their timeline and deliveries.” WestJet staff would also have to become familiar with the Q400 since it’s a new aircraft type for the airline, he adds.
WestJet will not be the only Canadian carrier with Q400s when its regional subsidiary launches – Toronto-based rival Porter Airlines operates Q400s and has built up a strong customer base among the business community, boosted by its links with Toronto City Billy Bishop airport.
Despite operating similar aircraft, Saretsky dismisses any talk of co-operating with Porter, saying that WestJet is focused on building a standalone regional operation that “will benefit from WestJet’s brand”.