Spokane Targeted For New Routes To Canada From WestJet

Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, WestJet Link operator, Pacific Coastal Airlines, filed with the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) for authority to conduct operations between the United States and Canada. A regional airline in Canada, it filed with the DOT to conduct operations to Spokane, Washington, under the WestJet Link banner, giving the airport its only international connections.

Spokane Targeted For New Routes To Canada From WestJet
Under an agreement with WestJet, Pacific Coastal Airlines plans to fly Saab 340s to Spokane. Photo: Brand03 via Wikimedia Commons

WestJet wants to serve Spokane

Pacific Coastal Airlines has applied for authority with the DOT to conduct nonstop operations between the United States and Canada. The Canadian carrier plans to operate flights to the US on behalf of WestJet under a capacity purchase agreement.

In partnership with Pacific Coastal Airlines, WestJet is looking to launch transborder flights from Spokane International Airport (GEG). There are two Canadian destinations targeted. The first is Vancouver International Airport (YVR). The second is Calgary International Airport (YYC). Both routes are expected to be served with daily service under the WestJet Link banner.

Spokane Targeted For New Routes To Canada From WestJet
WestJet has hubs in Calgary and Vancouver that it can leverage to fill up seats heading to Spokane. Photo: Getty Images

Vancouver and Calgary serve as hubs for WestJet, giving the airline access to a connecting network for travelers. This includes routes to secondary destinations in Western Canada.

Regional aircraft

Pacific Coastal outlined that it expected to serve Spokane using Saab 340 turboprop aircraft. These are small regional aircraft that seat 34 passengers. These planes do not feature WiFi or any inflight entertainment.

The Saab 340s typically operate regional routes for WestJet out of Calgary and Vancouver. Scheduling data from Cirium shows that Saab 340s are scheduled primarily out of Calgary to five regional destinations in Canada, while Vancouver will see three destinations served with the Saab 340. All destinations are within Canada.

Spokane Targeted For New Routes To Canada From WestJet
WestJet’s Saab 340 routes in July 2022. Photo: Cirium

If granted approval, Spokane will be the first destination served with Saab 340s outside of Canada in the WestJet network. However, Spokane could be the gateway for adding more routes to the Pacific Northwest, where smaller aircraft are ideal.

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Spokane’s only international passenger services

If Pacific Coastal Airlines is granted operational rights, it will be the only airline providing international services out of Spokane. All three major US airlines operate to Spokane using a mix of mainline and regional aircraft. Spokane’s largest airline is Alaska Airlines, though Southwest Airlines also has a sizable presence there. Lastly, some low-cost options, including aha!, Frontier, Allegiant, and Sun Country, have flights scheduled to Spokane.

Getting to Canada from Spokane requires a circuitous routing. This includes layovers in West Coast cities like Seattle or San Francisco. Alternatively, passengers could connect in Denver. Regardless, there is no direct, easy routing to get from Spokane to Canada.

Spokane Targeted For New Routes To Canada From WestJet
Delta and WestJet’s joint venture was blocked over LaGuardia slots, but the two airlines can still codeshare on routes. Photo: Getty Images

Adding two daily flights with 34-seat regional aircraft is not a lot of capacity. In the initial application, Pacific Coastal is not looking to codeshare with any other airline, though it will likely add it in the future.

WestJet is a partner with Delta Air Lines, and Delta would be a likely codeshare partner on this route. If the two airlines decide to codeshare on this route, WestJet could leverage its access to Delta’s base of passengers to expand services or upgauge flights. Delta is the largest of the big three airlines in Spokane.