Calgary's second airline is on its way to becoming first. WestJet, which only started flying four years ago, is seizing the opportunity it senses following Air Canada's takeover of Canadian Airlines.

WestJet plans to take nationwide the formula that has been the basis of its success in western Canada - low cost and frequent flights, often between uncrowded secondary airports. But for Air Canada's traditional lock on eastern Canada, this would seem to be a sure formula for success in Canada's heavily populated east.

The clearest sign of WestJet's ambition is its new fleet plan. Over the next four to seven years it will grow from 20 to at least 70 jets. The airline has announced orders for 20 new generation Boeing 737s with options on another 30. It also has agreed to lease 10 more 737NGs from GE Capital Aviation Services with options on another 10. If WestJet exercises all these options, this will add 70 jets.

Twenty of these aircraft will replace 737-200s; all others represent net growth. WestJet will stick with its policy of operating only one aircraft type, except during the change-over to new generation 737s.

WestJet has opened its new eastern Canada hub at Hamilton. The first flights started in early March. The airline will add two more routes in April, with others to follow. By summer, WestJet expects to operate 11 daily flights from Hamilton.

Source: Airline Business