Monday, January 16, 2012

WestJet eyes starting new regional airline

CALGARY — WestJet says it is considering the launch of a new short-haul, regional airline as early as 2013 using a fleet of about 40 smaller, turboprop aircraft.

“This is an exciting consideration for WestJetters,” said Gregg Saretsky, WestJet’s president and chief executive, in a news release. “We are meeting with WestJetters throughout January to get their input on this watershed decision.

“Once our employees have had the opportunity to share their input, we will be in a better position to make a sound decision rooted in employee feedback and engagement.”

He said the company has regularly evaluated this strategy.

Saretsky explained that a short-haul aircraft combined with WestJet’s brand, balance sheet strength and low-cost structure will allow WestJet to profitably accomplish four main goals: introduce WestJet’s service to many smaller communities who have asked for its service; optimize the size of aircraft to efficiently increase frequency; create new connections between existing WestJet markets; and build additional feed to its current 71-city network.

“I am excited at the prospect of repeating the entrepreneurial success of WestJet’s beginnings,” said Clive Beddoe, WestJet chairman and principal founder, in a statement. “Our single fleet of Boeings will be joined by a sister company operating a single fleet of turboprops to maintain maximum efficiencies for both airlines.”

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