In this screen grab from the City of Brandon’s website, Mayor Shari Decter Hirst is seen dressed in a Pan Am flight attendant’s uniform as part of a April Fool’s Day prank. (COURTESY THE CITY OF BRANDON)
The teasing tweet came from the city at 6:54 a.m. yesterday proclaiming: "Brandon Lands Passenger Air Service."
And once the link to the city’s website at brandon.ca was clicked, readers were presented with a photo of the mayor dolled up to look like an extra from the short-lived "Pan Am" TV series.
"Mayor Shari Decter Hirst is pleased to announce that the City of Brandon has signed a deal for regular scheduled air service with Pan Am Airlines to start today, April 1st. This major accomplishment ‘came out of the blue’ or maybe more appropriately ‘from thin air,’" the text from the website read.
"As the City of Brandon has been lobbying Air Canada and WestJet to make themselves at home in Southwestern Manitoba, Mayor Shari got a call and the rest is history!"
It was an April Fool’s prank designed to attract both the attention of the public, and to show the city is being creative about making a serious bid for regular commercial passenger air service at McGill Field.
"Westjet has a tradition (of playing April Fool’s jokes) — they do it every year — so that’s why we did it, to show we could be part of the team," Decter Hirst told the Sun yesterday.
For its annual April Fool’s joke yesterday, WestJet introduced Kargo Kids, "an exciting new program allowing guests to travel on select child-free flights, creating a quieter and more relaxing inflight experience, while children travel in a "special VIP" area of the aircraft."
But all kidding aside, the city knows WestJet’s final decision will be based on a business case.
Said Decter Hirst: "We’re trying to make sure as well that we have a solid business case, that we’ve done market analysis, and we’re also really focusing on us as the regional centre for western Manitoba."
To that end, Decter Hirst said the city will be seeking support for the city’s pitch to WestJet from reeves and councillors in the area.
Decter Hirst said the city has ongoing communications with WestJet — "Every time they call, we jump," she said with a laugh — and the airline is monitoring social media out of Brandon on the topic.
"I know they are amused and are following the tweets, but it will be a business-based decision," she said.
The April Fool’s Day PR stunt came on the heels of the city’s petition to attract WestJet soaring past the 10,000-signature mark last week.
Decter Hirst said at the time the city was "absolutely ecstatic" to have reached such a milestone in less than two months.
The petition launched on Feb. 8 in an effort to help demonstrate the strong market for regular air service.
Support in the form of signatures has been coming in from people not only in Westman, but across Canada and around the world.
A WestJet representative said last week the airline is still in the "very early stages of this process," with the current focus being on the selection of a type of regional aircraft.
"It’s great to see the enthusiasm of your community," wrote Jennifer Sanford, WestJet media relations adviser in an email to the Sun.
You can find a link to sign the petition on the Brandon Sun’s home page, brandonsun.com.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 2, 2012