WestJet Encore launches with two Q400s, and Nanaimo and Fort St. John in British Columbia as new destinations

Richard Bartrem, VP Communications and Community Relations, WestJet welcomes Fort St. John bound guests on the inaugural WestJet Encore flight from Calgary. Cup cakes in WestJet colours were on offer. The airline's current fleet of two Q400s is expected to grow to 20 aircraft within two years.

The launch of WestJet Encore, the new Q400-operating subsidiary of Calgary-based WestJet, will potentially see a whole range of new markets being opened up, and increased competition on existing markets. The airline’s launch, on 24 June, with two Canadian-built Bombardier Q400s, represents a major development in WestJet’s evolution, and possibly the airline’s biggest challenge since it launched back in February 1996.

Fort St. John and Nanaimo are new WestJet destinations

The launch of WestJet Encore sees the launch of four new routes for the airline; daily flights from Calgary to Fort St. John and Nanaimo, and daily flights from Vancouver to Fort St. John and Victoria. The two Calgary routes are not served by any other carriers, but Air Canada already operates on both of the Vancouver routes, as does Coastal Pacific, on the 65 kilometre hop from Vancouver to Victoria. Fort St. John (YXJ) and Nanaimo (YCD) in British Columbia have not previously been served by WestJet.

In addition, one of the Q400s operates a daily flight between Calgary and Saskatoon, a route that WestJet serves with four additional daily flights, using its 737-700s. As a result, the two aircraft operate a total of 10 sectors per day, every day of the week, as demonstrated in the following aircraft rotation plan. With one aircraft night-stopping in Victoria, the gap in the middle of the day, when both aircraft are back in Calgary, allows for additional operational flexibility.

Aircraft 1 Aircraft 2
Victoria (dep 07:15) – Vancouver (arr 07:44)
Vancouver (dep 08:15) – Fort St. John (arr 10:01) Calgary (dep 11:00) – Nanaimo (arr 11:45)
Fort St. John (dep 10:30) – Calgary (arr 13:00) Nanaimo (dep 12:30) – Calgary (arr 14:56)
Both aircraft spend time in the middle of the day in Calgary
Calgary (dep 15:50) – Fort St.John (arr 16:35) Calgary (dep 16:50) – Saskatoon (arr 18:09)
Fort St. John (dep 17:05) – Vancouver (arr 18:48) Saskatoon (dep 18:35) – Calgary (arr 19:59)
Vancouver (dep 19:20) – Victoria (arr 19:50)
Source: anna.aero analysis of Innovata / diio mi schedule data

The airline has already indicated that Brandon in Manitoba will be the next new destination for WestJet Encore, one that is not currently served by WestJet. According to the airline’s website, other destinations that will soon be served by WestJet Encore (but are already served by WestJet) are Edmonton, Grand Prairie and Regina. The airline is planning to welcome one new Q400 every month for almost the next two years. WestJet has firm orders for 20 Q400s with options for 25 more, and hopes to have all of these aircraft operating within five years.

What WestJet Encore and Calgary Airport said

Ferio Pugliese, President WestJet Encore, said “Our inaugural flights across western Canada today represent the future of enhanced connectivity for Canadians. WestJet Encore is here to liberate smaller communities from the high cost of regional air travel while continuing to provide every guest with our award winning culture of care. Much as we did back in 1996 with national carrier WestJet, WestJet Encore hopes to make regional air travel easier, more accessible and less expensive. Strategically, providing access to more Canadians as well as using WestJet Encore to fly new non-stops and enhance our frequency between markets will not only enable incremental growth from new markets but also enhance our overall value for the business market.”

Stephan Poirier, Vice-President and Chief Commercial Officer for The Calgary Airport Authority said, “The launch of WestJet’s regional airline in Calgary is a sign of YYC’s strength as a hub of choice in Canada, further enhancing our strategic direction of connecting Calgary to the world. We are thrilled to add Fort St. John and Nanaimo to our growing network of services. In addition, WestJet’s decision to make Calgary the home of its WestJet Encore headquarters demonstrates that YYC continues to be a major economic engine in Western Canada.”


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