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This article was published 22/6/2018 (703 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
WestJet Encore has operated more than 4,000 flights in and out of Brandon since it launched its air service nearly five years ago.
Company president Charles Duncan said Westman travellers continue to flock to the popular Brandon-Calgary route.
"We serve (34) cities within Canada — a handful in the U.S. as well — and across all those cities I can say sincerely, we’ve gotten great support … but nowhere have we felt the appreciation and support more than in Brandon," Duncan said.
WestJet Encore marks its fifth anniversary on June 24. It was a few months later, Sept. 3, 2013, when the company began offering service at the Brandon Municipal Airport.
"I can say, hands down the community has really delivered in terms of using the flight and supporting the service," Duncan said. "It’s really kind of a use it or lose it kind of a business for us … If we’re losing money we can move the airplane somewhere else, but the story for us is we’ve been growing our presence in Brandon and adding flights which has been great to see."
The company flies a 78-seat Bombardier Q400. Currently, there is one flight daily to and from Calgary. To meet the demand of travellers in the winter months, Encore added four early-morning flights to the mix last year, bringing the number of flights per week up to 11, Duncan said. They plan to do the same this winter season.
"We’ve been working on expanding the number of flights we offer from Calgary to more destinations," he said. "Ultimately, it gives the guests from Brandon a lot more choice."
The airline offered a Toronto route from Brandon for a short stint in 2016. However, that did not go as well as they had hoped. The challenge is that the Q400 cannot reach Toronto from Brandon, so they must fly a much larger aircraft. Duncan said over the two-month trial, the flights were about half-full, so they had to halt the service.
"We know there’s interest there, we’d love to be able to do it, but we just don’t have the right airplane for the size of the market," Duncan said. "We’re certainly not forgetting it … we know there’s interest and we’ll just continue to evaluate the size of that market. And even new technology … down the road.
The $11.2-million expansion of the Brandon Municipal Airport terminal building has been a welcome upgrade, Duncan added.
"It’s not so much measured in dollars and cents in a quantitative way, but it’s much more just a qualitative," he said. "It just helps for certainly our employees, but more importantly the guests and the residents there who are using the service to have a comfortable place to sit down before the flight."
WestJet Encore currently employs nearly 1,700 personnel and since its inception has created nearly 13,000 jobs. In Brandon, there is one full-time employee and nine casual or part-time employees. The airline currently operates a
fleet of 47 Canadian-made Bombardier Q400 NextGen aircraft and serves 34 Canadian cities as well asBoston,Myrtle Beach, S.C.,andNashville.
To celebrate its fifth birthday, the airline is offering a sale on fares if booked by June 25. Travellers can save up to 20 per cent for travel between Sept. 5 and Dec. 15.
Mayor Rick Chrest said the regular air service in Brandon has had a significant impact on residents in the city and surrounding areas, from personal travel to business needs.
"It’s generally always full, so that tells you that people from western Manitoba need the service, are using the service, and it’s been very consistent," he said, referring to the Calgary-Brandon flights. Chrest remains hopeful that there will be an eastern route added down the line.
"People have figured out how to really effectively use this Calgary flight to now be able to cover off most of Western Canada and probably the U.S. and beyond for business and leisure travel," he said. "I know the same thing would happen if we ever have a direct flight to Toronto."
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