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WestJet doubles daily flights

A regularly scheduled WestJet flight to Calgary boards its passengers at Brandon Airport on Monday.

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A regularly scheduled WestJet flight to Calgary boards its passengers at Brandon Airport on Monday. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)

Passengers board the WestJet flight to Calgary on Monday afternoon.

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Passengers board the WestJet flight to Calgary on Monday afternoon. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)

WestJet will touch down twice daily in the Wheat City beginning in January.

The news first broke via Twitter when Shannon Mannall, a WestJet manager, tweeted: "Hey YBR did you hear? Effective Jan 16 we flying twice a day to YYC! A new additional 0600 departure arrives back at 2250!"

Robert Palmer, a spokesman for WestJet, confirmed the second flight.

"(Brandon flights have) been very successful and we appreciate the support of residents of Westman," Palmer said. "They made it clear that they wanted WestJet service and they’ve demonstrated their support by using it. Air service is based on supply and demand, just like any other commodity. The more you use, the more you receive."

Checking the air carrier’s website shows WestJet will fly out of McGill Field at 6 a.m. and arrive at Calgary International Airport at 7:28 a.m.

That flight will then turn around and fly back to Brandon, departing at 9:45 a.m. and arriving at 12:45 p.m.

The plane will then depart the Wheat City at 1:20 p.m., as it has since its inaugural flight in September, 2013, and arrive back in Calgary at 2:37 p.m.

The final flight of the day sees a plane leave Calgary at 7:50 p.m. and arrive in Brandon shortly before 11 p.m. The aircraft will overnight in Brandon before going to the tarmac for the "headstart flight" the following day.

All flights are local times.

Palmer refused to share how full the flights out of Brandon have been for "competitive reasons. However, clearly we believe that the traffic on the route has been sufficient to warrant a second flight."

As of yesterday, prices ranged from approximately $180 to $190 departing from Brandon, and $205 to $215 leaving Calgary.

"By doubling the service level out of Brandon and allowing for same-day travel virtually anywhere in the world, WestJet has truly opened the door to a whole new range of business and leisure travel options in Western Manitoba," Mayor Rick Chrest said.

Tim Sanderson, the city's director of transportation services, said the change will mean Westman residents won’t have to spend a night in Calgary on their return travel.

"It allows a person to get from Brandon to anywhere in the world and home," Sanderson said. "We’re really excited about it. It just goes to show how back in 2013 when we announced the first flight how the community has really embraced it and there was a real need here."

The airport is currently open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. The extended flights will require additional staff, according to Sanderson, who expects the boost in revenue to be beneficial to the airport.

"It almost makes the airport a 24-hour operation," he said. "To see us be rewarded with another flight lets us know were are doing the right thing and the citizens of Brandon can see the dividends of their tax dollars at work and the hard work we do up here."

The airport gets terminal fees, landing fees and improvement fees from each flight.

Terminal fees are based on the capacity of the aircraft, landing fees are based on the tonnage of the aircraft while the airport improvement fees are related to the number of tickets sold.

"We are affordable," Sanderson said. "You compare our fees to anywhere else and they’re quite a bit less expensive and that helps in WestJet’s decision to pick us because we’re not the only one clammering for more flights, everyone is."

Currently the improvement fee is set at $5.35, well below many other airports in Western Canada. In 2013, for example, Calgary’s fee was $30 per passenger.

Free parking is another item that puts Brandon at a competitive advantage when attracting customers compared to its challengers.

The additional flight will also work well for travellers looking at sun destinations in the winter. Westman residents will now be able to arrive in Calgary in time for WestJet’s flights to the sun, and arrive back in Calgary in time to catch the flight back to Brandon.

Brian Salt, with McPhail Travel in Carberry, said more people travelled south from Brandon last winter, although it still remains the minority of his customers.

"The trouble is it almost always resulted in an overnight in Calgary," Salt said.

He expects the new flight schedule will mean a bump in people wanting to get on a flight closer to their doorstep.

Salt said prices out of Winnipeg and Calgary to southern destinations are similar or slightly cheaper out of Calgary, because they typically have been full in the past.

"Maybe with the slump in the oil that might change too," he said.

What it will mean, however, is people won’t have to make the trek to Winnipeg in the middle of winter, saving on parking fees at James Armstrong Richardson International Airport and hotel costs, as many flyers often travelled to Winnipeg the day before to catch an early flight south the following day.

"We have some that did it last year, but everyone still wants to fly non-stop and that’s an issue," he said. "Most people will still take the direct, but in Brandon your buddy can run you to the airport and you don’t have that drive when you get home."

Air Transat tried flying south out of Brandon in 2006, but weak demand forced them to wrap up flights four weeks earlier than expected.

At the time, Colleen Booth of Transat Holidays said: "If the bookings were there, we would definitely have kept on flying ... It’s just a financial decision."

Salt questions whether, in the future, flights might return to Brandon, as there has been a shift in customers’ attitudes about heading south.

"People want to get away from everything — we all do. It’s a mentality and everyone feels they’re owed a vacation in the winter," he said with a chuckle. "It’s a reward for living in Manitoba."

Brandon Chamber of Commerce president Jordan Ludwig said the increased service shows the resiliency of the Brandon air service market.

"This additional flight is great for our community, allowing access to major markets with a flight right out of Brandon, and same day return service to Calgary," Ludwig said "The ability to land in Calgary, attend meetings, and be back in your own bed all in the same day is a huge win for our local businesses in terms of convenience."

» ctweed@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @CharlesTweed

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition July 21, 2015

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WestJet will touch down twice daily in the Wheat City beginning in January.

The news first broke via Twitter when Shannon Mannall, a WestJet manager, tweeted: "Hey YBR did you hear? Effective Jan 16 we flying twice a day to YYC! A new additional 0600 departure arrives back at 2250!"

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WestJet will touch down twice daily in the Wheat City beginning in January.

The news first broke via Twitter when Shannon Mannall, a WestJet manager, tweeted: "Hey YBR did you hear? Effective Jan 16 we flying twice a day to YYC! A new additional 0600 departure arrives back at 2250!"

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