Competition to take Canadian Airlines' place as the country's main competitor to Air Canada is intensifying with Royal Airlines unveiling plans to double its domestic services and WestJet Airlines further bolstering its fleet with six more Boeing 737-700s.

Royal, formerly Royal Aviation, will double its scheduled domestic services from 11 September. This is designed to produce a 35% increase in the overall size of Royal's business and significantly strengthen its presence in Eastern Canada, says chief executive Michel Leblanc.

The carrier is launching new daily services from Vancouver to Toronto and Ottawa and between Halifax and Montreal. It will also add frequencies on routes from Toronto to Montreal, Halifax, Winnipeg, from Winnipeg to Halifax and Ottawa and between Ottawa and Halifax.

New routes for next year include Toronto to Edmonton and Calgary, and additional frequencies from Toronto to St Johns, Thunder Bay and Vancouver. Leblanc aims to offer oneway fares 50-75% lower than the flag carrier.

The Montreal-based carrier is adding four Boeing 737-200s to the five it already operates. The airline, which also flies scheduled charters to the UK and Spain, operates another four Airbus A310s and three Boeing 757-200s.

WestJet, in the meantime, has ordered six more 737-700s and taken options on 18 more. In February the airline ordered 20 737-700s and took options on 30 more. It also signed a deal with GE Capital Aviation Services to lease 10 737s with a similar number of options. The leased 737s will begin delivering in the second quarter of 2001 followed by the purchased aircraft in 2003.

The discount airline operates 18 737-200s and recently expanded services from western Canada to Hamilton, Ottawa and Moncton. Rival charter operators Air Transat and Canada 3000 have also announced plans to expand routes.

Source: Flight International