WestJet linking to Canadian Rockies International
Canadian Rockies International Airport (CRIA) manager Tristen Chernove this morning announced to a gathering of area municipal and business dignitaries that WestJet will begin flying into Cranbrook.
The announcement was in conjunction with WestJet today introducing WestJet Link, a new regional air service operating under a capacity purchase agreement (CPA) with Pacific Coastal Airlines.
Using Pacific Coastal Airlines’ aircraft painted in WestJet colours, WestJet Link will connect the communities of Cranbrook, Lethbridge, Lloydminster, Medicine Hat and Prince George to WestJet’s rapidly expanding network hub at the YYC Calgary International Airport.
“They say that rewards from the long game are most rewarding and this has been a very long game,” began Chernove, CEO of Elevate Airports. “This is the most exciting announcement for me since I have been here. All the pieces have finally come together and we are going to have WestJet serving the East Kootenay.”
Whoops, yips and clapping followed.
Chernove said WestJet’s announcement is “the biggest win-win I could have imagined. What has come together is a great partnership between Pacific Coastal Airlines and WestJet; similar to the way Air Canada has a relationship with Jazz – a capacity purchase.”
The announcement means three more flights in and out of CRIA a day to Calgary with “a really seamless connection,” Chernove said, noting departures from CRIA will be 7:25 a.m., 11:40 and 9 p.m. and flights will leave Calgary at 10:15 a.m., 7 p.m. and 11:05 p.m. The late flight in will overnight and leave at 7:25 a.m.
The service is to begin March 7.
While the news of WestJet coming to CRIA is a huge step, he added the community-at-large must now help out and utilize the service “to show them why we have been working so hard to get them here.
“Today’s announcement represents a milestone that we’ve been striving towards for years. This partnership between two great companies is a best-case scenario allowing for the right-size aircraft, providing high frequency and timely connections to Calgary and WestJet’s international network. In addition, we are pleased to announce we will reduce our Airport Improvement Fee in Cranbrook to four dollars for all flights booked on or after December 1, for travel on or after March 7, 2018. Welcome WestJet, you will soon see just how delighted we are to have you operating in the Kootenays,” Chernove stated.
To help launch the link service, WestJet is offering some great deals.
“The pricing is incredible,” Chernove pointed out, with introductory base fares (before taxes) of $64 from Cranbrook to Calgary – so a flight costing about $92. The return flight costs just over $100 due to higher fees at Calgary Airport.
Additionally, a flight from Cranbrook to Toronto, with all fees and taxes, will cost $142 and $156 coming back. Again, these are promotional start-up rates.
Chernove said his staff has been working hard to book flights in advance and encouraged those gathered to take advantage of the great rates.
“Those of us who have reason to book in advance for our travel, please help me out in doing that,” he said.
A key factor in encouraging WestJet choosing CRIA is growing numbers of ridership at the facility, Chernove explained.
“That speaks louder than anything else we can do,” he said, noting in 2012 ridership at CRIA was 112,000 passengers. “Now we are at more than 130,000 passengers, so the community came through” and helped attracted WestJet.
City of Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt and City of Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick echoed Chernove in noting the importance of local travellers taking advantage of air travel in and out of CRIA.
“This is very exciting news for the City of Cranbrook and surrounding communities. Residents from the East and West Kootenay have been waiting for years for WestJet connections to Calgary giving access to destinations around the world. This also opens up the world with easier access to the Kootenays. Pacific Coastal has been a great supporter of the Canadian Rockies International Airport and this solidifies their other routes with us. We will put concentrated effort into encouraging the public to take advantage of this added service,” Pratt said.
“It’s a big step for the airport and hopefully we can get (Canada) Customs coming on line, too, and everything will continue to grow here. The big thing is we have to support it otherwise it is going to disappear again.”
Mayor McCormick said, “timing is everything. You have to put a lot of hard work in but at the end of the day, good luck and timing are your two best friends and right now in our region we have a population that is growing; we are expanding our business opportunities through the Cranbrook/Kimberley Development Initiative; we’ve got new residents moving here, primarily from Alberta. The Cranbrook-Kimberley corridor is really important to us and I see this announcement with WestJet as an opportunity for us to take it to the next level but as Tristan mentioned and Mayor Pratt mentioned, we have to make it so. It’s not just going to happen on its own.
“In many respects this feels like the finish line; we’ve been working at it for 10 years and we got there, when in reality it is the start. This will be a game changer for us but only if we make it so.”
“This is terrific news! It’s great to see our region become even more accessible to the world as well as adding more service options for our residents,” added Chief Joe Pierre of the community of Aq’am.
Cranbrook Chamber of Commerce President Chris Botterill said this morning’s news is indicative of positive economic trends in the region.
“Consumer choice is one of the key factors that drives competition and quality of offerings. The WestJet announcement today is very exciting. Not only does it open up new opportunities for business development in our region; it is a strong indicator of the success that we are currently witnessing of the development and growth in our region,” he told e-KNOW.
Kimberley economic development officer Kevin Wilson said the WestJet announcement “is exceptional” news for the region.
“Like has been said, this is a game changer. I am really excited about having some competition in that group in addition to what sounds like a really good high level of service and the flight frequency. I think what has been holding that route back, in some sense, is the competition and having multiple carriers flying between Canadian Rockies and Calgary Airport is really going to bring down the price point to make it more viable to fly instead of drive. I think a lot of people chose to drive on that first leg of a long haul flight, so that could be a big deal,” he said.
Wilson also noted it could lead to more business activity with Alberta. “That connection between clients or parent organizations in Calgary and further afield; it reduces the barriers. I am really excited about it. This is a real enabler for the Cranbrook Kimberley Development Initiative. I think we are all rowing in the same direction.”
The new routes announced today will add to WestJet’s existing leadership position in Calgary, offering more flights and seats to more destinations than any other airline, the long-sought-after company noted in a media release.
All WestJet Link flights will be operated by Pacific Coastal using its fleet of 34-seat Saab 340B aircraft (pictured right). Each aircraft will include six seats available in WestJet Plus, offering guests advanced boarding, no-charge for
“A CPA with Pacific Coastal underscores WestJet’s commitment to offering more Canadians access to WestJet’s low fares and growing network. WestJet Link will be that connection to these communities and will offer more choice and more competition for air travellers, as well as more opportunities to earn and use WestJet Rewards,” said Ed Sims, WestJet Executive Vice-President, Commercial.
“All of us at Pacific Coastal Airlines are excited and proud to be entering this relationship with WestJet. Our two airlines, both based in Western Canada, share many similar corporate and guest service values and we feel that this CPA is a perfect partnership to link many new communities to the WestJet network,” added Quentin Smith, President of Pacific Coastal Airlines.
“This new partnership between WestJet and Pacific Coastal will allow smaller communities within Alberta and British Columbia to take advantage of YYC’s extensive route network. Bringing in new passengers from these communities provides more opportunities to support additional long-haul destinations and contributes greatly to WestJet’s growth strategy out of YYC,” said Bob Sartor, President and CEO for The Calgary Airport Authority.
WestJet is publicly traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) under the symbol WJA. For more information about everything WestJet, please visit westjet.com.
Chernove said he in uncertain about any employment increase as a result of the new flights coming into the CRIA, noting that would be up to the individual carriers utilizing the airport.
– Ian Cobb/e-KNOW