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WestJet closer to possible Fort St. John service

WestJet President and CEO Gregg Saretsky announced this morning that the airline is looking into the launch of a new short-haul, regional airline, that could include Fort St. John and Dawson Creek as destinations.

The airline would have a fleet of approximately 40 smaller, turboprop aircrafts, and could be in business as early as 2013.

This follows Saretsky's comments at the end of 2011, explaining the company has reached its limit for large aircraft markets, and are now looking at smaller communities. He says he prefers expansion within Canada, instead of more overseas destinations.

The rest of January will be spent meeting with employees to get their opinions and feedback on what Saretsky calls as "watershed" decision.

He explains, "One of the cornerstones of our success is engaging with employees early on in key decisions and I am confident they will see the strategic value of this initiative," adding, "Once our employees have had the opportunity to share their input, we will be in a better position to make a sound decision rooted in employee feedback and engagement."

WestJet currently flies to 71 international cities, using 97 Boeing 737s, which can seat between 119 and 166 passengers. The new sister company is looking at the Bombardier Q400 or the ATR 72 turboprop airplanes for the expansion, which seat between 70-80 passengers.

If WestJet decides to order new aircraft, it would take between 12-18 months for delivery, which means air travel competition in Fort St. John could still still take a while if WestJet decides to go ahead with the expansion.

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