Mayor positive on WestJet question

Word expected this month on who will get WestJet Encore service

Bombardier Q400 is the plane that will serve new regional markets

It’s been more than half a year since WestJet announced the imminent purchase of more than 40 Bombardier turbo-prop aircraft and the creation of a regional service to be known as WestJet Encore. Expressions of interest in WestJet service were solicited by the airline and dozens of communities responded, making formal presentations in Calgary last June.

Announcement day is drawing closer as a planned late January statement date was pushed back.

Communities across the country have eagerly awaited a decision on who can expect WestJet Encore service.

Representing the West Kootenays, a Castlegar contingent felt good about it’s pitch following the effort and Mayor Lawrence Chernoff is every bit as upbeat now as he was  late last spring.

“I’m still optimistic about it,” said Chernoff on Jan. 31.

The mayor hinted that there may have been recent, encouraging signs relating to whether Castlegar’s name is among those cities whose names are read when the news is broken.

“I just think it’s working in a good direction,” he said. “It’s my understanding that WestJet executives were in the community in the last couple of days, either Rossland or Nelson… in the area.”

Chernoff did not indicate any knowledge of who the executives were, or exactly what the purpose of their visit may have been.

WestJet media representative Robert Palmer, in an email, told the Castlegar News on Jan. 31 he had been unaware of any such group visiting the West Kootenays over this period.

Back in June an excited Chernoff had described how towns and cities from Pacific coast to Atlantic coast had taken their 25-minute turns in telling WestJet why they’d be good candidates for WestJet Encore service. His enthusiasm does not appear to have waned.

“I’m still positive,” says the Castlegar mayor, “no doubt about it. I’m extremely hopeful. To me, it’s the right time and I think it’s a great opportunity.”

While the identity of the successful applicants remains a mystery for the time being, according to WestJet, the wait will be over soon.

“We haven’t made the date public,” Palmer’s email concluded, “but it will be sometime in February via news release early in the morning.”

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