West Kootenay has company in wooing WestJet

Delegation heads to Calgary later this month to pitch Castlegar and region as part of WestJet grid

Castlegar and the West Kootenay

Castlegar and the West Kootenay

The highly successful WestJet has no shortage of communities clamoring to become part of it’s network. There are locations across the county vying, as Castlegar is, to become a base for regular WestJet turbo-prop service.The present buzz over the possibility of enhanced service here is likely shared with each town and city on the list.Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff has an appointment later this month in Calgary at which he and some colleagues will do their best to sell the carrier on the viability of flying in and out of here.

WestJet appears to be one of those outfits that can do no wrong. The image cultivated by the employee-owned carrier is that of an innovator… a comparably informal airline that places a strong emphasis on value, service and reliability. There are many in this area who would enjoy a relationship with the Calgary-based enterprise.

“The regional airline will fly the Bombardier Q400 NextGen to new cities, existing destinations not currently connected by WestJet and will allow for schedule improvements on certain routes where a smaller aircraft can efficiently provide greater frequency,” the Penticton Western News is quoted in its May 1 issue. Penticton, incidentally is also in the running for new WestJet service.”Bombadier lists the planes as designed for short-haul routes, with a 70-to-80 seat capacity. According to the aircraft builder the Q400 NextGen radically reduces carbon emissions thanks to its lower overall fuel burn and because of its new, high tech propeller design and advances in engine technology it reduces community noise pollution. The plane is also touted as being able to access smaller airports that have less runway. WestJet has signed a letter of intent to purchase 20 Q400s with the option to purchase a further 25 aircraft.”

Mayor Chernoff confirmed that air service-related concerns are nothing new the local community.”It’s a long standing issue,” he said on Friday. “I think from the point of view of the West Kootenays this is a huge economic development tool. What we’re looking for is reliability.”Since issuing an email news release on the subject a couple of days ago, the mayor says communication has spiked in a big way.”I’ve been receiving emails from everybody across the region. I’m excited to see that there’s that much excitement in the community about bringing in another carrier.” He says whether for business or pleasure travel is all about “getting there as efficiently and reliably as possible.”    Jen Sanford of WestJet Media Relations indicated from Calgary on Friday that the decisions will definitely be carefully made.”Long before we announced we would launch our regional airline we would hear from smaller communities across Canada that wanted WestJet service,” she explained.

“Obviously the launch of the new regional airline has created a whole new level of buzz, and we’re very excited to see the lengths to which some communities have gone to reach out to us, and of course, we’re hugely flattered.”

Obviously, also – a fair number of these communities will be disappointed when the decisions are made.When examined regionally, though, it would appear the West Kootenay airport has a number of selling points for an outfit like WestJet.”We look at the current and past experience with air service,” Sanford continued. “We look at the local economy and that of the outlying area. For example, are there large industries? Are their employees in the area? Do they travel as a requirement of their work? We look at both business and leisure travel and we look at both ends of the telescope – so who will be traveling to this new destination? And will the people who live and work in this area be traveling as well?”The spokesperson said of the wholly-owned subsidiary of WestJet, “We’re looking to have, at the end of the day a fleet of up to 45 of these 78-seat Q-400 next generation turboprop aircraft.”

The civic leader is of the impression that should they set up shop in Castlegar for the benefit of the wider West Kootenay region, WestJet would be a welcome addition.”For everybody who travels, WestJet it’s a good experience,” said Chernoff. “Like I said, there’s just that excitement in the community. Everywhere you go people are talking about it. It’s a great initiative for the West Kootenays.”