Whether or not Brandon is included in WestJet's plans to set up a regional airline could come down to 30 crucial minutes.
That’s how long a Brandon delegation will have to make its pitch to WestJet officials during a meeting in Calgary later this month.
And area residents are asked to do their part to ensure the trip is a success by filling out a survey that will play a critical role in proving there is demand for air service.
"Airlines are in the business to make money," said Sandy Trudel, the city’s director of economic development. "When they are looking to introduce new routes or enhance routes, the first thing that will be on their mind is, ‘Is this a location in which I can be successful and have the returns that I need?’"
WestJet plans to establish a regional airline in 2013 and Brandon is one of an estimated 50 communities which have been asked to make a presentation.
"I view them all as competition," Trudel said, although she doesn’t know which specific communities will also make a pitch.
During the presentations, delegates will be asked about their communities, the state of their airports and why WestJet should include their community in its plans.
A final list of Brandon’s delegates hasn’t been formed yet because the city awaits details from WestJet about any limit on the size of the delegation.
However, the team is expected to include Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, Trudel and either the city’s operational services general manager Rod Sage or Tim Sanderson, director of transportation services.
The Brandon Chamber of Commerce has also offered to provide a delegate and there may be a number of officials from other parts of southwestern Manitoba.
Trudel said the final touches to the presentation are being made, but she isn’t releasing details at this point to prevent giving away strategy to the competition.
However, she said the business case is key and an important part of that case is the survey.
The city hopes to build on the success of its online petition in support of air service, which collected more than 10,000 signatures.
The city now reaches out to southwestern Manitoba business and leisure travellers with a survey which asks them where they travel to and how often.
It also asks where people travel from to visit local residents and how many visitors come to the area to visit the respondent in a typical year.
The survey takes an estimated four minutes or less to fill out and appears online at brandon.ca/air-travel-survey.
For those who don’t have online access, the survey can also be filled out over the phone on the respondent’s behalf by city staff by calling 729-2132.
The survey was launched on April 11 and there have already been about 450 responses, with most coming from leisure travellers.
Responses are needed from across southwestern Manitoba, Trudel said, as Brandon alone doesn’t have the ability to sustain service — but it’s believed that Brandon combined with southwestern Manitoba does.
With the Calgary meeting looming, to be part of the business case the survey responses are needed as soon as possible.
The trip to Calgary is scheduled for June 27-28. The latest the surveys could be collected to form part of the pitch is June 25, but Trudel urges residents not to wait until then.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 11, 2012