Canadian carrier WestJet Airlines is using the flexibility of the operation of the smaller Bombardier Dash 8-Q400NextGen turboprops into the fleet of its regional division, WestJet Encore, to enhance connectivity between Toronto and Québec City. The airline will switch the route to the regional operation from March 2015 as it introduces a second daily rotation.
WestJet launched services between Toronto’s Lester B Pearson International Airport and Jean Lesage International Airport in Québec City in May 2008 and although it initially offered a twice daily operation over its first winter, it has reverted to a year-round daily operation with just one or two additional weekly flights between November and April. It competes directly with Air Canada on the route, while Porter Airlines serves Québec City from Toronto’s Billy Bishop City Airport.
The airline currently utilises a 136-seat Boeing 737-700 on its daily Toronto - Québec City route but will replace this with a 78-seat Dash 8-Q400NextGen when Encore takes over the operation of the route from March 15, 2015. As well as the offering of a second daily rotation, the aircraft switch will result in a 14.7 per cent increase in seat capacity on the route.
"One of WestJet Encore's raison d'être is to allow us to make service improvements to the communities we serve by increasing frequencies, and this is a prime example of that strategy," said Chris Avery, vice president, network planning, alliances and corporate development, WestJet. "We look forward to offering our guests more choices and flexibility, increased frequency and great connectivity to our many transborder and international sun destinations."
WestJet’s current schedule sees its single daily rotation depart Toronto at 20:20 and arrive in Québec City at 21:45. The return flight departs Québec City at 06:25 and arrives back into Toronto at 07:57. The new Encore schedule will see a new mid-afternoon rotation from Toronto and evening return from Québec City and will see the existing Toronto departure slipped back an hour. This will see departures from Toronto at 15:40 and 21:15 and from Québec City at 06:00 and 18:00.
According to MIDT data, an estimated 277,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between Toronto and Québec City in 2013, up 37.0 per cent on the previous year, but down on the 290,000 peak in 2011. In our analysis, below, we look at the demand on the city pair over the past ten years and highlight the traffic of the three airlines currently serving this market.