Southwest Airlines hopes to complete its code-share partnership with WestJet next year before possibly flying its own planes to Canada as early as 2011.
The agreement, which would allow the two companies to sell tickets both airlines and make transferring between the two networks easier for travellers, was put off in May as Southwest focused on technological upgrades within its own network.
But the Dallas-based airline said it expects to have partnerships with Calgary-based WestJet and Mexico's Volaris up and running in 2010.
"Once we get that code share service up and running with WestJet and Volaris, the technology will be much closer to us serving destinations on our own," Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King said from Texas.
Last week, Southwest chief executive officer Gary Kelly said the 37-year-old carrier could spread its wings to near international destinations in Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean as early as 2011.
Ms. King wouldn't say what Canadian cities Southwest will mostly likely service.
"We would look at Canada as a whole and decide where we see the best benefit for our service being introduced."
She added entry into Canada wouldn't distract its efforts with WestJet.
WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer said it was working towards an agreement but "no firm timelines have been set by either partner."
Airline analyst Jacques Kavafian of Research Capital Corp. said high airport fees, taxes and other charges would complicate Southwest's desire to offer discount fares from Canada.
"It's just one additional airline flying to Canada," he said, playing down the significance of such a move, should it occur.
Mr. Kavafian said Calgary and Vancouver would likely be Southwest's first Canadian cities because of their proximity to hubs in Las Vegas and Phoenix.
Many Canadians seeking cheaper fares currently catch Southwest flights from border airports in Detroit, Buffalo, N.Y., Seattle and Spokane, Wash., but Southwest said it hasn't tabulated the number of Canadians who fly the airline.
Ms. King said the introduction of Canadian service wouldn't necessarily result in expanding its fleet. Southwest flies 545 planes and recently added Boston and New York by reallocating resources from unproductive routes.
Code-sharing involves airlines selling seats on each other's planes and sharing the revenues. One carrier can put its code on a flight operated by the other.
It is considered a low-risk way for airlines to expand their networks without the added cost of more planes and employees.
WestJet is seen to reap greater benefits from the partnership, since it will give passengers access to Southwest's 65 cities that provide more than 3,200 daily flights.
The airline is also working on code-share arrangement with European carriers Air France and KLM.
Earlier this week WestJet announced a revised aircraft delivery schedule designed to help the airline grow capacity between five and 10 per cent in 2010 and give it flexibility to adapt to changing markets until 2016. It plans to add 30 Boeing 737s.
Follow us on Twitter: