After an initial delay, Canadian LCC WestJet Airlines is poised to launch its first capacity purchase agreement (CPA) in June, the first of what is expected to be several deals that will expand the carrier’s network into smaller communities.

The deal with Pacific Coastal Airlines (PCA), announced in December, envisioned an early 2018 start date. But PCA hit delays in getting regulatory approvals, forcing WestJet to push the launch to June 20.

Initial routes will connect WestJet’s Calgary hub with Cranbrook, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Lloydminster and Prince George. All routes will be flown with 34-passenger Saab 340Bs painted in WestJet livery.

“We’re about to launch in the [Canadian] West,” WestJet CFO Harry Taylor said in a recent investor conference. “We hope to have something in the East over time as well, and expect that this will continue to add and grow” both the carrier’s revenues and network.

Notaby, Cranbrook and Prince George are in British Columbia, outside of WestJet’s home province of Alberta. Diversifying its Calgary traffic has been one of the carrier’s goals, as Alberta is heavily dependent on oil exploration, and has seen traffic rise and fall in line with oil prices. PCA’s other three WestJet routes are in Alberta.

WestJet, which has 47 Bombardier Q400s flying in its WestJet Encore regional operation, is expected to add CPAs to add feed at its Vancouver and Toronto hubs as well as bolster Calgary. Expanding into smaller communities not suited for Q400s is seen as a key way to add flow that will help support the carrier's international widebody expansion. It takes the first of 10 firm-order Boeing 787-9s early next year and is expected use the aircraft to launch new long-haul services to Europe, Asia or both. The carrier currently serves several European destinations.

Sean Broderick, sean.broderick@aviationweek.com