Air Canada is in discussions with Jazz Aviation and its other regional providers regarding a response to WestJet's planned launch of regional flights in 2013, says an executive.
Michael Rousseau, executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Air Canada, says that its ability to introduce to add up to 60 76-seat jets or turboprops at its regional carriers provides it with increased flexibility and allows it to better compete with other airlines, at the CIBC 11th Annual Eastern Institutional Investor Conference in Montreal today.
"In a way, we're going to compete with WestJet's regional," he says, regarding the additional regional lift.
Calgary-based WestJet has a firm order for 20 Bombardier Q400s and options for an additional 25. It expects to launch the regional operation in the third quarter of 2013.
Montreal-based Air Canada is able to add the additional regional aircraft following the approval a new contract with its pilots by a Canadian government appointed arbitrator in July. However, it must maintain a certain number of mainline aircraft in order to add the full 60 aircraft to its regional fleet, says Rousseau.
Jazz, which operates as Air Canada Express, converted six options for Bombardier Q400s to firm orders in July. The aircraft will be delivered between February and April 2013.
The Chorus-owned regional carrier has nine options for the Q400.
WestJet has yet to detail destinations for its new regional operation, but it has named 30 Canadian cities that are too small for its Boeing 737s to operate to. Michael Boyd, chairman of the Boyd Group International, says that the carrier could feasibly launch flights between Calgary and smaller destinations in the northwest USA, including Billings, Boise, Jackson Hole and Spokane, at the Boyd Group International Aviation Forecast Summit in Dallas on 17 September.
Porter is another Canadian Q400 operator with a hub at Toronto's Billy Bishop City Centre airport and flights to major destinations in eastern Canada and the USA.