WestJet sees immediacy for decision on Q400 options

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Calgary's WestJet will decide whether to take its first two Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 options this year, says the carrier's chief financial officer Vito Culmone while speaking from the CIBC World Markets Whistler Institutional Investor conference on 25 January.

"We will need to make some early calls fairly quickly here as we move through the back half of 2013, as far as exercising the options related to those 2014 deliveries," he says.

WestJet has made 20 firm orders for the 78-seat Q400s, with 25 options available from 2014 to 2018. Culmone says that the airline would have to give 12 months' advance notice to the airframer before each of the options would be deployed. The first two options are available in September and November 2014.

WestJet is looking at "several" sources of financing for the aircraft, says Culmone, adding that the carrier may be in a position to give more details during its fourth quarter investor call on 6 February.

WestJet plans to receive seven Q400s in 2013 and another seven in 2014.

The Canadian airline also has some flexibility in sizing its main Boeing 737 fleet, with 33 lease agreement expirations coming due in the next five years for the aircraft type, says Culmone. When considering new 737 orders, WestJet can have a minimum of 102 or maximum of 135 aircraft in the fleet by 2018.

"That gives us tremendous flexibility around optimizing the 737 fleet as we move through these growth initiatives," he says.

WestJet had originally planned to unveil destinations for Encore on 21 January but has pushed back that deadline to sometime in February.