WestJet Encore starts daily Winnipeg-Regina service

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WestJet today brings back service between the Canadian cities of Winnipeg and Regina after a five-year hiatus, this time with its regional subsidiary Encore.

The Calgary-based low-cost carrier will fly between the cities twice a day with 78-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400s. Jazz Aviation provides three flights per day between the cities on weekdays and one to two flights on weekends under the Air Canada Express banner, Innovata schedules show.

WestJet launched Encore in June 2013 to focus on underserved cities and to better tailor capacity on its Boeing 737 network. The airline’s regional aircraft, smaller than the 737s in the mainline fleet, allow the carrier to perform routes that are not economically feasible with a larger aircraft and substitute them with the smaller Q400s on lighter travel days.

The carrier plans to add more cities to its network of 16 destinations in 2014 as it builds up its fleet.

"Every new point-to-point connection offered by WestJet Encore has tremendous potential with regard to convenience, connectivity and capacity," says Ferio Pugliese, WestJet Encore president and WestJet’s executive vice-president. "For us, 2014 is about connecting more cities and strengthening our network with non-stop service and convenient, competitive schedules. These are two critical pieces missing until now in the regional airline market."

WestJet chief executive Gregg Saretsky told investors that Encore would expand its reach across Canada to Newfoundland by mid-2015 at a conference in September and added that schedules issued later this month would likely reflect new locations in Ontario and Quebec.

Encore has seven Q400s in its fleet today, Flightglobal’s Ascend Online database shows. The carrier will receive another 15 aircraft by 2015 and has options to take another 25 aircraft between 2015 and 2018, regulatory filings show.