The new year is expected to bring more air travel to smaller Canadian cities, as WestJet is poised to expand its new regional service called Encore.

Sudbury was one of many communities that made a pitch at a special "speed-dating" session with WestJet this summer. The city is hoping to secure service for a growing market of those who travel by air.

The director of business development for the Sudbury airport said air travel jumped by 40 per cent when Porter Airlines expanded to Sudbury — but there's still room for growth.

"There's still many, many travellers getting in their vehicles and driving to their destination or travelling to larger airports such as Pearson to begin their travels," said Terra Glabb.

"So our hope is to capitalize on that opportunity, continue to promote air service and grow our market so [that] — if and when a commercial airline, such as WestJet, does choose to begin service in our community — we have the market to support that."

Previous service cancelled

Glabb said some 250,000 passengers went through the airport in 2012.

WestJet attempted to serve Sudbury back in 2001, but seats sat empty on its larger 737 planes.

The service was cancelled a few years later.

The smaller Encore planes will mirror other regional carriers from Air Canada and Porter, with seats for 78 people.

The CEO for Encore, Ferio Pugliese — who grew up in Kirkland Lake — said he's not ruling out expansion to northeastern Ontario.

"It's possible, it's possible," he said. "I get the question a lot from communities all across Canada."

WestJet plans to announce the first cities Encore will serve later this month. More routes will be added over the next few years.