WestJet Airlines annoucened today that it is looking at starting a short-haul regional airline as early as 2013.
In doing so, WestJet would be in direct competition with its main rival Air Canada, which generally is the only airline that flies into certain smaller Canadian markets with its feeder airline Air Canada Express..
WestJet started operations in 1996 with three Boeing 737-200 aircraft and five destinations. Since that time, it has upgraded to 737-600, -700 and -800 series aircraft, and flies to 71 cities including destinations in the U.S. and Caribbean.
It is assumed that to operate a short-haul regional network, Westjet would need to add approximately 40 regional turboprop aircraft to its fleet.
Possible aircraft to fill that role include the Bombardier DHC-8Q-400 and the ATR 72.
As of October 31, 2011, Bombardier reported 412 total orders for the DHC-8Q-400 aircraft, of which 383 had been delivered.
WestJet has not commented on which routes it is considering, but possible destinations include: Cranbrook, Prince Rupert and Fort St. John in British Columbia, Brandon and Thompson in Manitoba, and Sudbury, Sarnia and Timmins in Ontario.