WestJet clarifies invitation
A delegation (including Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff) invited to present to WestJet near the end of this month will be one of fewer than 50 from across the entire country, according to WestJet media relations advisor Jennifer Sanford.
She said the first step in a very complicated process began back in January, when WestJet announced they wanted to launch a regional airline.
"WestJetters voted more than 90 per cent in favour," Sanford said, explaining the airline then looked for the ideal aircraft for its fledgling subsidiary, eventually choosing the 78-seat Bombardier Q400 turbo-prop aircraft.
"With that comes three types of flying," she said, detailing the opportunity for a) new destinations; b) connecting the dots (new flight paths to existing destinations); and c) Increased frequency and higher load factors for existing destinations, allowing the airline to maximize the potential of its entire fleet.
"It's a constantly evolving scenario - at one time, we said we'd never fly east of Winnipeg ... and we're now serving 76 destinations in 14 countries," she said.
She said WestJet looked at the entire domestic network map to indentify towns and cities that would offer the best fit, then sent out save-the-date emails on Friday to less than 50 communities across the nation, with formal invitations to go out later this week.
"The list hasn't yet been finalized," she said.
"It's important for us to bring them to our beautiful campus, so we can showcase our culture and introduce them to the WestJet world."
Sanford wasn't able to provide a specific timeline for decisions to be made and the regional service to be up-and-running, explaining the focus right now is on meeting with communities and evaluation options.
When asked if the degree of community enthusiasm for having WestJet deplane locally would be a factor in the decision-making process, she demurred, saying WestJet has been hugely flattered by the lengths to which some communities have gone to reach out, such as circulating petitions, setting up flashmobs, etc. But she said factors like past experience with air service, local economy, base of travellers from both the business and leisure sectors - all of this comes into play as they choose their new destination communities.
Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff said the invitation has him flying pretty high.
"I think it's great," he said. "There's just no downside."