WestJet takes on Air Canada on its home turf

In­creases ser­vice in Que­bec


WestJet is tak­ing on Air Canada on its home turf in Que­bec by pur­su­ing one of the largest ex­pan­sions in the air­line’s his­tory af­ter beef­ing up its ser­vice in French.

The Cal­gary-based air­line (TSX:WJA) said it’s in a po­si­tion to grow its reach in Canada’s sec­ond-largest prov­ince by pop­u­la­tion af­ter re­quir­ing that all flight at­ten­dants hired since 2014 be bilin­gual. About 94 per cent of flight at­ten­dants on the re­gional WestJet En­core ser­vice now speak both of­fi­cial lan­guages.

WestJet has an­nounced 105 more flights per week in the prov­ince on top of the 140 it has now.

The air­line, which has op­er­ated in Que­bec since 2003, is mak­ing its big­gest push in the prov­ince by adding daily flights be­tween Mon­treal and Que­bec City, Hal­i­fax and Bos­ton us­ing 70-seat Bom­bardier Q-400s. The re­gional air­line will have 45 air­craft by mid next year.

Twice-daily flights to Hal­i­fax start March 15, four-times daily ser­vice to Que­bec City be­gins June 15, and Bos­ton will get twice-daily flights on Oct. 15.

WestJet is also in­creas­ing the fre­quency of flights be­tween the Que­bec and Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary and Toronto us­ing Boe­ing 737 planes.

Bob Cum­mings, ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of com­mer­cial for WestJet, said there’s room in the prov­ince for two large air­lines, which com­pete fiercely in each other’s ter­ri­tory.

“There’s 8.2 mil­lion peo­ple here and for there to be one so dom­i­nant player, I think there’s room for two play­ers and this cer­tainly in­creases our rel­e­vance and pro­vides choice to Que­be­cers,” he said in an in­ter­view Mon­day.

He said WestJet’s ex­pan­sion will also al­low more peo­ple to con­nect to its net­work in or­der to fly across Canada, to Europe and else­where through air­line part­ner Air France-KLM.

WestJet said its in­tro­duc­tion of low fares and com­pe­ti­tion to mar­kets serviced pri­mar­ily by Air Canada has his­tor­i­cally caused fares to sub­stan­tially de­crease and prompt more peo­ple to fly.

Air Canada (TSX:AC) says it wel­comes the com­pe­ti­tion.

“We are very well-po­si­tioned to com­pete suc­cess­fully with any car­rier world­wide as we of­fer ev­ery­day low fares in ev­ery mar­ket we serve on a year-round ba­sis, in ad­di­tion to in­tro­duc­tory spe­cial fares and pro­mo­tions,” spokes­woman Isabelle Arthur wrote in an email.

She said the coun­try’s largest car­rier, its low-cost Rouge sub­sidiary and re­gional part­ners op­er­ate about 2,400 flights per week be­tween Mon­treal and 85 des­ti­na­tions, in­clud­ing 24 in Canada and nine in Que­bec.

Michel Ar­cham­bault, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus spe­cial­iz­ing in air­line trans­porta­tion at the Univer­sity of Que­bec in Mon­treal, ex­pects Air Canada will fight back, as it has done in the past.

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