New Airline For Canada?

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Canadian airline WestJet is considering creating a spinoff regional carrier in a move seen as a direct challenge to the country's flag carrier Air Canada. WestJet said it's considering buying about 40 turboprop airliners to serve smaller markets and shorter routes. The airline would be competition for Air Canada Express, the big airline's contracted regional carrier, and Porter Airlines, which targets business travelers from its hub at Toronto City Centre Airport, which does not allow jet aircraft. In a news release Monday, WestJet said the regional airline is a "logical extension" in the growth of the company but it will also break a tenet that is cited in its success so far.

WestJet has followed the example of Southwest Airlines in operating only Boeing 737 aircraft. It started in 1995 with two 200-series 737s and now operates more than 100 modern 600-, 700- and 800-series 737s. The regional line would use either Bombardier Q400 or ATR 72 70-seat turboprop twins. In some cases, the regional carrier might take over short routes now inefficiently flown by the jets, freeing them up for longer-haul operations. WestJet said it will poll its employees, who are all shareholders, to determine if it proceeds with the regional carrier.