West Jet takes it to Air Canada with news of service to New York LaGuardia
And Porter also is steadily expanding, with news seemingly every couple weeks of another destination or added flights to places such as Burlington, Vermont or Myrtle Beach. Bad enough that Porter is kicking them in the shins, but now comes a heavy blow to the stomach from rivals WestJet.
In case you missed it, WestJet on Wednesday was awarded eight "slots" at New York's LaGuardia airport, a short cab ride from the pleasures of marvellous Manhattan. That means up to eight landings and eight takeoffs per day for the Alberta-based airline. And that's a fair number of butts in seats to a popular destination.
They haven't announced details but you can bet most of those flights will be from Toronto, clearly the economic capital of the country and a hugely growing market for tourism and business. I'm suspecting that, being Calgary based and all they'll want perhaps one round trip, non-stop from Calgary to New York, versus forcing folks to change plans in the Big Smoke. They might want a Montreal-New York daily as well.
But Star biz reporter Vanessa Lu was telling me Wednesday that airlines usually find it more efficient to have a variety of flights out of one centre, versus spreading them all over. So it would make sense for most of the New York flights to use Toronto.
There are a lot of flights between Toronto and New York already, of course, what with Air Canada and Porter and others, including American Airlines. At some point you might hit the saturation point, but I'd have to think Toronto-LaGuardia would be more lucrative for WestJet than many intra-Canada flights.
Either way, giving WestJet fliers direct access to LaGuardia eight times a day is a huge step towards WestJet's goal of rivalling Air Canada and Porter in the eastern market. They now fly into Newark International but it's a long way into Manhattan from there, even with rail access directly to Penn Station. LaGuardia is much more convenient for most folks.
I'm not dismissing Air Canada in any way here. They weren't allowed to bid for the slots at LaGuardia because airport officials in New York only allowed bids from airlines that don't currently use their facility. Air Canada, of course, is huge at LaGuardia.
Porter wasn't allowed to bid, either, because LaGuardia requires pre-clearance of US customs on Canadian soil. The Island Airport in Toronto doesn't have that, although there are plans to have such clearance by 2013 sometime. Which would technically allow Porter to fly into LaGuardia, as well.
"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity," said a jubilant Gregg Saretsky, WestJet's chief executive officer. "LaGuardia is slot controlled and therefore access is otherwise strictly limited. Our ability to now serve New York demonstrates we are focused on delivering on our business traveler strategy."
It's not QUITE once-in-a-lifetime, actually. Saretsky understands, of course,that WestJet briefly flew out of LaGuardia a few years ago but couldn't make a go of it.
Still, it's a big deal. It allows WestJet a little more swagger and it demonstrates to us eastern folks that they mean business when they talk about doing more work in our neck of the airline woods.
"It's a coup for WestJet," airline consultant Robert Kokonis told the Globe and Mail. "It boosts their efforts to increase the penetration of the Central Canadian corporate marketplace."
Whether it means better fares for customers is hard to say. But I'd think WestJet will want to launch its service with a splash, so stay tuned for details on when flights will start. It might make for a good time to wake up in the city that never sleeps.
If you guys need anyone on that inaugural flight, by the way, just let me know.