WestJet cites route opportunities with Encore

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Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet believes its new regional subsidiary will help the airline compete with Air Canada on at least three high traffic routes that it is already flying on.

The regional carrier, WestJet Encore, is expected to begin operations during the third quarter of 2013 with a fleet of Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s. It will be based in Calgary, WestJet's current headquarters.

WestJet's chief executive Gregg Saretsky cites three routes on which the airline believes it would be able to make up for a shortfall in frequencies compared to Air Canada with WestJet Encore.

The Calgary-Edmonton market is served 17 times daily by Air Canada, for example. WestJet now operates only seven times daily on the route. Air Canada operates 19 times daily on the Toronto-Montreal route, while WestJet flies 10 times daily. In another example, Toronto-Vancouver is served 19 times daily by Air Canada, and nine times daily by WestJet.

The launch of WestJet Encore is also expected to lower fares significantly on routes served exclusively by Air Canada, says Saretsky.

He cites a fare range of C$174 ($175) to C$792 for Montreal-Quebec City, a route that is not served by WestJet. In comparison, WestJet offers a fare range of C$99 to C$242 for Edmonton-Calgary, a route within a similar distance range, says Saretsky.

WestJet has said that it aims to use its new regional subsidiary to open new destinations, connect existing destinations in its network, and also add frequencies on existing routes served by its Boeing 737s.