Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Windsor Airport woos WestJet: Hopes for share of turboprop flights

WINDSOR, Ont. -- With traffic already at its highest level in the past decade, the president and CEO of Windsor Airport is hoping to attract more flights from West-Jet should the Calgary-based carrier launch a fleet of 40 turboprop aircraft next year designed to service smaller markets across Canada.

"While we are still not sure what they're planning to do, we do have a relationship with WestJet based on their weekly seasonal flights to Calgary," said Federica Nazzani. "It's an informal relationship, and we are in contact with WestJet on a frequent basis to make sure we remain on their radar screen for additional service."

Gregg Saretsky, WestJet president and CEO, said Monday the company was considering expanding its reach and service with a shorthaul regional schedule, with a final decision to come after extensive consultations with WestJet employees.

The service, if approved, would be run by a sister company operating smaller turboprop aircraft. The company currently flies Boeing 737 aircraft to 71 cities throughout North America and the Caribbean.

"Expanded service has been rumoured for quite a while," said Nazzani. "But we've not heard anything definitive and likely won't until West-Jet surveys its employees.

"But it would be a bold move and it's something that needs to happen for competitive reasons, to get West-Jet into smaller markets and airports," said Nazzani.

As it stands now, Air Canada Jazz operates 12 daily flights in and out of Windsor, Porter Airline has six flights daily, and Sunwing operates one flight weekly to Cuba.

WestJet is expected to resume its weekly seasonal flight to Calgary later this year.

Porter flies 77-seat turboprop aircraft and Jazz flies similar 50-seat turboprops of the type WestJet is considering launching.

Nazzani said smaller aircraft "are often better in smaller markets because they offer more frequency of schedule, which is better for our travellers, both business and pleasure."

In August, more than 23,000 passengers flew in and out of Windsor, marking the airport's best month in a decade, said Nazzani.

Nazzani said the increase was a result of both new service, offered by Porter, and making residents in the airport's catchment area more aware of the options available at Windsor.

Nazzani said flights have also become more competitively priced with the introduction last year of Porter into the local marketplace.

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