Canadian low-cost carrier WestJet has revealed it will introduce services to four new destinations this summer including details of the first routes that will be flown by its new regional division WestJet Encore. The budget venture will add a link to the US city of Dallas with flights between Dallas/Fort Worth International and Calgary International and between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Toronto's Pearson International Airport, but it is the long-awaited network debut of Encore that has generated the most interest.
The new division will initially launch operations in June 2013 with its first two 78-seat Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprops serving Fort St John and Nanaimo in British Columbia, while flights between Vancouver and Victoria will begin the same month. WestJet Encore is scheduled to receive a total of seven Q400s in 2013 and will receive its full complement of 20 aircraft plus 25 options over the next six years.
WestJet Encore will initially serve Fort St John on a daily basis from both Calgary and Vancouver from June 24, 2013. "The announcement of the first two cities to be served by WestJet Encore is an historic moment for our new airline," said Ferio Pugliese, Executive Vice-President, WestJet, and President, WestJet Encore. "As Canada's low-fare leader, we look forward to introducing our award-winning guest experience to Canadians in smaller communities while connecting to our network of 85 destinations in 18 countries."
Fort St John is British Columbia's Energy Capital and the regional service centre for all of northeast British Columbia. "We are very pleased to bring our new WestJet Encore service to the Energetic City," said Chris Avery, Vice-President, Network and Schedule Planning, WestJet. "The diverse nature of the region's economic base of oil, natural gas, forestry and agriculture creates a strong foundation for this new service. We believe the Peace Country will appreciate our unique blend of high value, low fares and remarkable guest experience."
WestJet Encore will also provide a daily offering on the Calgary – Nanaimo route from June 24, 2013. "We are very excited to launch non-stop service to the Harbour City," said Chris Avery. "Nanaimo is the second-largest city on Vancouver Island and a destination for both business and leisure travel. It has a large trading area and ties to other regions in the country. This new service will also link a large geographical area of the island with Calgary and our large domestic, transborder and international network."
The final of Encore's launch routes will be a daily operation between Vancouver and Victoria, which will also commence from June 24, 2013. "This type of flying demonstrates the versatility of the Q400 aircraft," said Ferio Pugliese. "In addition to new destinations, we are now able to effectively connect cities that have WestJet service but not between each other. This type of use opens up many new possibilities for us to serve even more Canadians in the future."
In June 2012, representatives from more than 30 Canadian cities came to WestJet's Calgary campus to convey their interest in WestJet Encore and more destinations will be added to the carrier's network. "We are just getting started," said Ferio Pugliese. "The communities that are not part of today's announcement continue to be under consideration as we take delivery of additional aircraft later this year and in the years to come."
Although not yet formally announced by the carrier, the Encore network will be expanded from August 15, 2013 when a daily Calgary – Grande Prairie service will be introduced, while the airline will also offer a single rotation (seven daily) on WestJet’s existing link between Calgary and Edmonton, before expanding the route to nine daily flights from September 15, 2013 of which four will be flown by Encore aircraft. The turboprop aircraft will also be introduced on one of four daily flights between Calgary and Regina, one of two daily flights between Edmonton and Grande Prairie from the same date.
Elsewhere, WestJet has also announced the launch of new non-stop services between Toronto and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and between Calgary and Dallas, Texas, beginning this spring. Flights on both routes will be operated using the airline's existing fleet of Boeing Next-Generation 737 aircraft. Starting May 2, 2013, WestJet will introduce twice-weekly seasonal service on Thursdays and Sundays between Toronto and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A daily service between Calgary and Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas, will begin April 29, 2013.
"We are very proud to announce our 19th and 20th US destinations and our 82nd and 83rd destinations overall," said Chris Avery, Vice-President, Network Planning, Alliances and Corporate Development, WestJet. "Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular destinations for Canadian vacationers, with more than 90 kilometres of picturesque beaches, world-class golf and warm southern hospitality.
"The baggage capacity of our 737 aircraft is ideal for those travelling with golf clubs and our one free checked bag is popular with leisure travellers. Guests will be able to find a variety of packaged vacations featuring ocean-front resorts, condos and hotels through WestJet Vacations," he added.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is the fourth-largest airport in the United States, as well as a major hub for WestJet's partner, American Airlines. WestJet's relationship with American Airlines will enable guests to access three round-trip flights a day between Calgary and Dallas, a key Western business route, as well as American's extensive network beyond Dallas. "Our airline partnership strategy continues to complement our growing network and is opening many new markets for our guests," said Chris Avery.
Within Canada, WestJet is also increasing the number of flights between Toronto and Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon and Regina, and will introduce new non-stop service between Toronto and Fort McMurray. "Our increase in domestic capacity this summer season is a strategic decision aimed at improving our schedule for leisure and business travellers," said Chris Avery.
The airline will also increase to two flights daily from one between Calgary and Los Angeles, and to eleven from seven flights weekly between Toronto and Orlando, while further afield WestJet will extend service to Aruba, Liberia, Costa Rica, and Trinidad and Tobago on a year-round basis. It will also add one extra flight each week between Toronto and Kingston and Montego Bay, Jamaica; Varadero, Cuba; St. Martin; Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic and Cancun, Mexico. WestJet Vacations' packages will also be available on many of these routes.