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New B.C. flights will be tough connections from Brandon

The first WestJet Encore flight makes a pass over the Brandon airport last year. WestJet inaugurated a Brandon–Calgary service in September 2013.

BRUCE BUMSTEAD Enlarge Image

The first WestJet Encore flight makes a pass over the Brandon airport last year. WestJet inaugurated a Brandon–Calgary service in September 2013.

Brandon flyers who hop on board the WestJet Encore service at McGill Field will soon have a couple of new options to choose from.

WestJet announced this morning that its Encore brand will be flying in and out of Penticton starting in October, and they've added a direct flight to Kamloops from Edmonton, starting early next year.

Neither new flight will be especially convenient for Brandon-based travellers. The Kamloops flight, connecting through Edmonton, is nearly irrelevent to Brandonites, who already have the option for same-day connections to Kamloops in Calgary.

And while the new Penticton flight also flies in and out of Calgary, it departs Cowtown at 2:05 p.m. — about half an hour before the Brandon flight arrives, stranding Brandonites in Alberta for nearly 24 hours before they would be able to catch their connection into B.C.'s southern Okanagan Valley.

On the return leg, the Penticton flight arrives in Calgary at 5 p.m., meaning Brandonites trying to fly home from their winery tours will require another overnight in Alberta before catching the morning flight back to Brandon.

Late last month, WestJet anounced the ordering of five new Bombadier Q400 NextGen aircraft, the same turboprop plane currently flying in and out of Brandon daily to and from Calgary. The first of the five will arrive as early as June 2015 and the company says they will help add new destinations as well as more frequent flights to existing destinations.

Brandon's airport, known as McGill Field, has struggled to provide adequate facilities for the current WestJet Encore service. Despite recent upgrades, the aging terminal is too small for modern baggage and security requirements.

The city has plans to triple the size of the terminal, but the 18-month, $8.3-million project has yet to receive funding approval from the federal government.

The project has already received commitments from the municipal and provincial governments, and the city is set to begin collecting a $5.35 airport improvement fee in August that will be used for capital improvements at the airport.

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