Is WestJet/Castlegar issue still alive?

If no (recent) news is good news locals may feel encouraged

The Bombardier Q400 turboprop is the workhorse that will handle new regional service

It was in the fall of 2012 with considerable fanfare that the highly successful WestJet airlines announced the imminent creation of regional service.

Many people in and around Castlegar were hopeful their city/region would be included in the arrangement.

To date there has been no positive announcement concerning the West Kootenay Regional Airport, but, for that matter, neither has there been a definitive denial.

A deal was made with Bombardier for about 40 ultra-modern turboprop aircraft and communities across the country geared up for the possibility of attracting the right kind of attention.

Delegations from many communities, including Castlegar, had made the trip to WestJet’s Calgary headquarters to state their cases in a short presentation. A handful of communities were then named as successful applicants for WestJet service. In BC those communities included Nanaimo and Penticton.

Not a lot has been in the news ever since.

Mayor Lawrence Chernoff has remained aware of the situation all along, and when contacted this week agreed it has been kind of a non-issue (media-wise, at least) for an extended period. He’s as keen on the prospect, however, as he ever was. It had been he, along with former MP Jim Gouk who had made the local pitch in Calgary, a pitch which had included the promise of some $300,000 worth of locally funded airport upgrades to facilitate safe use of the airport in a wider variety of weather conditions. He said he felt good about the presentation, but time has gone on and not much more has been heard.

“I’m expecting an announcement in July, to my understanding,” said the mayor on June 24. “It’s moved pretty slowly – they haven’t done a whole lot.”

His Worship conceded that in some cases no news is good news.

“They haven’t said no, and they haven’t put out to a lot of places. In the original plan they were supposed to have a lot more, but they have very few places out there in reality.

“I don’t know whether they’ve backed off, but we haven’t heard from them at all.”

In the meantime Air Canada Jazz, the only carrier currently serving Castlegar will continue in a locally-valued relationship.

Airport manager Gerry Rempel says the arrangement with Air Canada is a good one, but if WestJet, or any other carrier were to come calling they’d be welcome.

“We’re here to serve the public the best we can,” he said. According to Rempel there is no contractual obligation for Air Canada to continue serving Castlegar for any set period.

“It’s forever, I guess,” said the airport manager, “as long as they choose to fly in. There’s no set agreement that they’ll fly any particular time or length of time. We have lease agreements with them for their office space, etc.”

Multiple attempts to obtain information on this topic from WestJet, ahead of press deadline were unsuccessful. Watch for updates in the coming weeks.

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