In 13 days, Brandon will find out if WestJet will add the Wheat City to its first-round list of communities that will be served by the company’s new regional air service.
And while city officials remain optimistic that Brandon will be part of that regional service, Brandonites may have to wait awhile before that ambition is realized.
A Saturday-morning Twitter exchange between Brandon Sun managing editor James O’Connor and WestJet officials shed some new light on how WestJet intends to roll out its new service.
After O’Connor retweeted a Westman-based Twitter user comment that @WestJet soon bring its new passenger service to Brandon — and noted that “We’ll find out soon!” — @WestJet replied:
“Actually, new destinations will be announced every few months for about five years, so it might be a while.”
It’s not hard to discern within that sentence — as we read between the lines — that WestJet was giving the city a soft letdown as it gears up for its big promotional rollout.
We’d like to think that Brandon is still a contender for this first round of regional community picks. But we also have to keep in mind that no matter how much the City of Brandon wooed WestJet — remember that picture advertisement of Mayor Shari Decter Hirst in a flight attendant uniform? — it was always the dollars and cents that would win out.
Last summer, WestJet offered more than 30 communities across the country a chance to make their pitch to tell the airline why they were the “right community” for the company. Brandon made its 25-minute presentation alongside delegates from Terrace, B.C., and Radium Hot Springs, B.C. Other communities known to have made presentations include Thompson, Yorkton, Sask., Cold Lake, Alta., Medicine Hat, Alta., Prince Rupert, B.C, Nanaimo, B.C., Cranbrook, B.C., and Fort St. John, B.C.
And while Brandon’s representatives put on a pretty good show for company executives back in Calgary — complete with a Brandon-themed magazine — plenty of other communities no doubt made similar strong appeals. And the competition is fierce.
But then, so too is the competition among passenger airlines. WestJet’s new regional service, which will be served by several new Bombardier Q400 turboprop planes — was meant to bolster and expand its revenue base, by servicing communities that currently are off its radar.
And of course, it’s trying to steal market share away from Air Canada, its main competitor in this country. Will flying daily into Brandon do that? Unfortunately they’re the only ones who can answer that with any certainty.
But we are certain about a few things. As the mayor pointed out in a story published in yesterday’s Sun, Brandon’s business case is pretty strong. Our business currently unserviced community is healthy and growing, we have an expanding population base. To the east of the city lies a major Canadian Forces base, and to the west, a burgeoning oil sector.
And the desire for commercial air service is strong here in Westman — a petition in favour of such a service in Brandon that garnered 10,000 signatures proved that.
We will keep our fingers crossed that Brandon will be in on the first round. But if that isn’t meant to be, that is no reason to give up hope for some future announcement. We think WestJet has taken notice of this community and in a very positive way.
That can only spell good news on the horizon.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition January 8, 2013