WestJet to unveil first Encore routes on 11 February

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WestJet will unveil its first Encore routes on 11 February, the carrier tells investors in a 6 February earnings call.

The carrier had previously planned to unveil the regional routes on 21 January, but delayed the announcement because of the scope of work required to integrate Encore's new fares into the carrier's global distribution system. The introduction of Encore pricing required WestJet to set up a new commuter module in Sabre that had to be tested. As a result, the initial route announcement was pushed back and the new bundled service fare model it is offering will roll out by end of the month.

The route announcement will focus only on the routes that the first two Bombardier Q400s will fly after their June delivery, executives said on the call. As WestJet continues to add the 20 Q400s that it has on order to the fleet, more routes will be announced. It will announce about four to five different schedule changes throughout the third quarter as the new aircraft enter the fleet.

WestJet says that it is planning to introduce the first originating routes in either eastern or western Canada and then expand that network across the country with more connections nine to 12 months after the launch.

WestJet serves 31 destinations within Canada, while its competitor Air Canada offers flights to 59 cities. WestJet is hoping to stimulate traffic through fares it will offer in new destinations, including those across the border in the USA.

Air Canada is strengthening its own service in western Canada with plans to boost domestic service on 19 routes within that region. This month, Jazz Aviation started flying the Q400 on the Edmonton-Regina and Edmonton-Saskatoon routes, doubling the capacity between those city pairs. More flights originating in Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver will be added in the coming months.

WestJet told analysts that Air Canada's own fleet plans have not influenced its roll-out strategy for its own western routes and that it is looking forward to entering new domestic markets with another player present.

"We're looking forward to competition that occurs on those routes," said the airline.