WestJet Counting On Agents To Help Fill New QC Seats
By Bruce Parkinson
With brand recognition in Quebec lower than in other parts of the country, WestJet will be “counting on the trade to help us out,” according to Lyell Farquharson, VP Sales & Business Development.
In an interview with Open Jaw, Farquharson said WS salespeople “have been inundated by messages of support” from travel agents after announcing an increase of 105 flights per week – a 74% capacity jump – to, from and within Quebec.
“We’ve had great feedback from the trade. Many have been waiting for this for years, and we’re very happy to expand our network,” Farquharson said.
The airline has been working towards expanding its footprint in La Belle Province for years, mainly by increasing its complement of bilingual crew members. Speaking both official languages has been a requirement for all new flight attendants hired since 2014, with the result that 94% of FAs for regional service WestJet Encore have the skill.
Encore’s fleet of Bombardier Q400s will operate the routes, a fact that shouldn’t hurt as the company is headquartered in Montreal. “Air Canada uses Bombardier products too, but there’s certainly some brand value in working with them. By the end of next year we’ll have 45 Q400s in the Encore fleet,” Farquharson said.
On 15MAR, WS will launch twice-daily service between YUL and YHZ. Then, beginning 15JUN, the carrier will inaugurate point-to-point service in Quebec for the first time with 4 daily flights between YUL and YQB. And, on 15OCT, WS will begin twice-daily service between YUL and BOS.
In addition, the airline will also double non-stop flights between YUL and YVR from six per week to 12. Operations between YUL and YYC will increase from 14 flights per week to 19. The airline's YQB-YYZ service will add one more daily flight for a total of three.
Asked if this is just the beginning of expanded Quebec and Eastern Canada service, Farquharson said time will tell. “It’s a fair jump. I wouldn’t expect to see any more for a period of time. But we think there’s still more room for some regional flying in Quebec.”
Farquharson says WestJet’s network and enhanced QC schedule should attract some business traffic, while lower fares on routes currently served only by Air Canada will capture price-conscious leisure travellers.
“With our low-fare approach we tend to stimulate demand rather than steal share,” he said.
WS is also planning to benefit from connecting traffic in its own network and with partner airlines, including YQB pax travelling through YUL, or on the YUL to BOS route, where, as an example, Quebecers can connect to EK Dubai flights.
For WestJet Rewards members, the new routes will offer an expanded network, and Farquharson says Quebec membership should grow thanks to the new routes.