Q400. Courtesy, Bombardier

WestJet (WS) has signed a letter of intent to buy 20 Bombardier Q400 turboprops, the Canadian low-cost carrier announced Tuesday.

The deal also includes options on a further 25 aircraft.

Calgary-based WS said the aircraft will be operated by its new regional airline, which is expected to launch in the second half of 2013 (ATW Daily News, Feb. 9).

It will fly the Q400 on new city routes as well as on existing destinations not currently connected by WS, the carrier said. The airline expects to announce its initial regional schedule in 2012.

WS had considered the Q400 and the ATR 72-600 for its new regional carrier, which has not yet been named.

The carrier reported first-quarter net income of C$68.3 million ($69.4 million), up 41.6% from C$48.2 million in the year-ago period. First-quarter revenue rose 15.3% to C$891 million while expenses lifted 13.4% to C$785.3 million, producing operating income of C$105.7 million, up 32.3% from C$79.8 million last year.

Traffic increased 10% to 4.72 billion RPMs on an 8.8% capacity rise to 5.69 billion ASMs, generating a load factor of 83%, up one point. Yield rose 4.8% to C18.87 cents as RASM rose 6% to C15.66 cents and CASM lifted 4.2% to C13.8 cents. CASM ex-fuel lifted 0.4% to C8.95 cents.