09/23/2013 11:29 EDT | Updated 11/23/2013 05:12 EST

Air Canada seeking regional partners to operate some transborder routes

MONTREAL - Air Canada (TSX:AC.B) is looking to outsource the operation of flights on some of its regional routes to the U.S., starting in mid-2014, in a bid to cut costs.

The airline said Monday it's inviting "select" Canadian and American regional carriers to bid on the opportunity to operate the flights.

Air Canada already has agreements with four Canadian regional partners — Jazz of Dartmouth, N.S., Sky Regional and Air Georgian of Toronto and EVAS of Gander, N.L. — to operate flights under the Air Canada Express banner.

Jazz Aviation, which is owned by Montreal-based Chorus Aviation (TSX:CHR.B), is a former Air Canada subsidiary that operates flights to 78 destinations in Canada and the United States.

Air Canada also signed a deal last year to transfer 15 regional jets in its mainline fleet to Sky Regional, mainly on routes from Toronto and Montreal to cities in the northeastern United States.

Sky Regional also operates flights using five Q400 turboprops between Montreal and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport.

The airline said Monday the request for proposals for the U.S. routes is the next step in an ongoing program to cut costs.

"Over the past two years, Air Canada has made significant changes to its strategy and relationship with its regional partners, now all operating under the Air Canada Express banner," Howlett said in a statement Monday.