Although it won't see a return to direct flights to Toronto — at least for now — Brandon will be getting more flights to Calgary this summer.
WestJet said in a news release Friday it is boosting the number of flights between the two cities to 11 times a week from seven, closely mirroring its winter schedule.
"In the winter, we do a schedule (that's) very similar, in which we have the regular lunchtime flight, which is seven days a week," said Carla Richardson, the City of Brandon's director of transportation.
The Calgary-based airline then adds an additional five overnight flights, which come in late at night and head back out early in the morning.
"We're very excited that they're going to do this in the summer and give us four of those overnight flights go out in the morning during the spring and summer," Richardson said.
"That will mirror our operational requirements closer to what we have to staff in the winter," she said, adding that includes staff in the morning to see the flight out and make sure the runway and terminal conditions are up to standard.
"Then, we still have to staff people late at night to welcome that flight in, as well," she said. "We're just working out the schedule kinks now."
She noted the added revenue from additional flights will make up for any extra staffing costs.
"We're really pleased to see this," Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest said Friday.
He said WestJet closely monitors demand for its services, and adding flights shows how strongly Brandon is performing on this route.
Chrest admits it doesn't make up for the loss of direct flights to Toronto, which were offered for a short time in 2016.
Brandon would like to be able to offer air service west and east, he said.
Unfortunately, the Q400 turboprop aircraft WestJet uses for its Calgary-Brandon flights do not have the fuel capacity to make it to Toronto, and there are not enough passengers here to fill the larger aircraft that can make the flights.
The best thing the city can do is to keep demonstrating to WestJet that its west leg to Brandon is "a winner," Chrest said, and show the airline the city is a good candidate for routes out east.
City of Brandon economic development director Sandy Trudel agrees.
"We always knew what our demand and our potential was, but there's the challenge of matching an aircraft size with what the market is able to sustain," she said.
The Q400 was a perfect fit for Brandon when WestJet added the aircraft to its fleet, Trudel added. "That was a perfect alignment between the flight volumes that were occurring and the aircraft size."
She said there is no lack of clarity on Brandon's desire for an eastern flight; it's just a matter of matching up the right aircraft with the number of passengers required to make it profitable.
Still, Trudel said, the expanded summer route between Brandon and Calgary is "great news for us. Obviously, every travel destination option that we can provide to our residents from Brandon is a win for us.
"It's keeping that money and the expenditures that are associated within our local economy and it's also making it, obviously, more convenient for our residents, which then makes our community that much more appealing."
She added it's a good sign of the growth that's been happening in Brandon.
"WestJet makes wise business decisions, and obviously they see the potential for this expanded route, which is really good news."
Trudel noted the community has strong business and personal ties to the west.
"That was a really easy decision (on WestJet's part to add a Calgary-Brandon flight in 2013), and our flight numbers have demonstrated that confidence."
A spokesperson for WestJet could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
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