An online petition to bring WestJet Airlines to the West Kootenay Regional Airport is picking up steam. The petition, started by Dirk Jonker of Nelson, has 457 signatures out of 2,500.
There were plenty of comments on the petition site, most of which were from people wanting more consistent service at the Castlegar airport. Leica wrote that she would, “Gladly welcome a more cost effective flying solution for us here in the West Kootenay! Yes, yes, yes!”
Castlegar councillor Kevin Chernoff said the petition has been around for a while.
“I think if you go back to the Facebook page, it was started a few years ago,” he said. “From what I see, they’re trying to get WestJet in here. I’m seen other communities do the same thing. It’s a way for people to let WestJet know they want their services.”
Optimism has grown in recent months about WestJet expanding into more markets after the company announced they plan to purchase several smaller aircraft and made a commitment to grow their domestic market.
West Kootenay Airport regional manager Gerry Rempel said he isn’t aware of any expansion by WestJet into Castlegar, but has heard the carrier is expanding. “I think they’re still deciding on where to locate their services,” he said.
At present, the West Kootenay Regional Airport is served only by Air Canada Jazz, which goes to Vancouver and Calgary.
WestJet is not expected to announce its expansion until late 2012 or early 2013.
“We haven’t made a decision nor are we close to a decision to where we’re going to fly with this new regional airline,” said Robert Palmer, a WestJet spokesperson. “We’re still six or eight months away from making a decision on which communities we’re going to be flying into with our new service.”
Castlegar mayor Lawrence Chernoff says the city is always looking to attract new businesses and services to the region.
“We’re presently in discussions with WestJet on an ongoing basis,” he said. “They’ve made some moves to purchase an aircraft to service communities like ours if that’s feasible. We’ve been pushing to get WestJet. We may be dealing with Air Canada again or whatever the case is because they’ve been providing the area with service. Can we upgrade services here? So really the point of discussion is – we want to talk with both carriers and get the best service possible into the community.”