WestJet will be flying into smaller Canadian airports, but whether the landing strip in Castlegar will be one of them is still to be determined.
Last week the Calgary-based airline announced that WestJet Encore will fly into smaller airports across the nation starting in second half of 2013. The West Kootenay Regional Airport in Castlegar is on the list of facilities calling for the airline to be part of the mix.
“That’s the big question: who will be the first communities to receive that service?” WestJet spokesperson Jennifer Sanford told the Star earlier this week.
“The latest announcement is that we’ve selected a name for our regional carrier, which is exciting for us. We have done a lot of great things in our 16-year history with changing the fare structure and the way people look at flying in Canada. Encore represents that we will be doing this once more and this time for those smaller communities, to liberate them from their high fares.”
Since early in the year, politicians and community leaders from throughout the region have been banging the drum hoping to attract WestJet. Currently Air Canada’s Jazz is the only major airline to fly out of the Castlegar airport.
In June, Nelson mayor John Dooley and Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff traveled to Calgary to make a presentation on behalf of the West Kootenay airport. The local contingent was among 32 others who also presented to WestJet.
“At this time we are looking at all of the communities that came to the campus and we will be making an announcement of those first Canadian cities to receive regional service in early 2013,” said Sanford.
Former West Kootenay MP Jim Gouk also joined that meeting in June. A former air traffic controller and federal transportation critic for the Reform Party, Gouk told the Star that the Bombardier Q400 aircraft are better equipped to land in the oft-times adverse weather that plagues the airport in Castlegar.
Though WestJet is tight-lipped about where they will roll out the new service, Sanford said the airline is encouraged by the response so far.
“We are both impressed and humbled by the length in which some communities have gone to reach out to us,” she said. “Of course we are hugely flattered.”