Air Canada

Jazz vows to meet Westjet competition head-on


Air Canada’s regional carrier, Jazz Air, says it is watching Westjet’s plans for serving smaller airports closely, and will help its parent company compete with its rival.

Westjet recently announced plans to buy smaller turbo-prop aircraft to serve markets that aren’t big enough to fill its larger 737 jets – up to now, the only plane has flown. Staff approved the project earlier this month.

The company hopes to attract new low-fare passengers who might otherwise fly with Air Canada, or even take the bus.

For example, the new turboprops, combined with new agreements to funnel passengers to international flights, could help substantially boost connecting traffic from small British Columbia cities connecting at Vancouver International Airport.

The move would also mean ferocious competition for Jazz, which has had some lucrative routes – such as Victoria International to Vancouver International – all to itself.

“I think it’s really premature to say exactly how it will affect Air Canada and therefore us,” said Chorus Aviation chief executive Joe Randell in a conference call with analysts. Chorus is Jazz’s parent company.

“But suffice to say it is a significant factor and we’ll be watching this very closely,” he said.

Randell says Jazz will have a greater mix of aircraft, including regional jets, that will help it adjust to changing market conditions.

Westjet hopes to have a regional airline operating by the end of 2013.