In a bold move, WestJet is shifting its eastern Canada hub from Hamilton to Canada's biggest metropolis and busiest hub in Toronto. On 18 April, WestJet is dropping 85 weekly Hamilton flights and adding 78 at Toronto, including all flights to Montreal and Ottawa. This is a 60% redeployment and a three-fold increase in WestJet's Toronto service.

WestJet elected to build its Toronto hub quickly rather than gradually. According to Clive Beddoe, WestJet's chief executive: "We see an opportunity to bring a significant amount of capacity, in one fell swoop, into Toronto." Under its new schedule, WestJet will offer 182 weekly Toronto departures, with the prospect of more later this year as it takes delivery of 11 new Boeing 737-700s. The decision to shift hubs is aided by WestJet's relocation into a revamped terminal at Toronto's Pearson airport.

When WestJet began to expand east several years ago, it resisted flying to Toronto because of costs and concerns about flying nose-to-nose with Air Canada. No Canadian carrier had ever successfully challenged Air Canada at its main hub. Cautiously, WestJet started Toronto flights in May 2002 after the collapse of Canada 3000.

Its decision to make Toronto its eastern Canadian hub signals WestJet's confidence in becoming a nationwide major. Analysts predict its lower costs will keep Air Canada from halting this invasion.

Adding to Air Canada's woes, it has been awarded fewer gates in the new terminal than it sought, and it may be forced to share some gates with WestJet.

Source: Airline Business