A bigger world of social and economic benefits may come our way when WestJet starts its new regional air service next spring.
That’s how some community business and leisure travellers are reacting to WestJet Link service on March 14 to connect Lloydminster to Calgary’s network hub via daily flights.
All WestJet Link flights will operate under a contract with Pacific Coastal Airlines using their fleet of 34-seat Saab 340B aircraft as WestJet announced on Nov. 24.
Leading the applause is Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce president, Angela Minish who said increased air service out of Lloydminster is one of the policy resolutions the chamber has been advocating to accommodate business and economic growth for the community.
“We have many people that travel for work and having WestJet fly out of Lloydminster will help to decrease their costs and save travel time and it’s also going to increase their scheduling flexibility,” she said.
Minish said in terms of economic benefits, WestJet Link is going to be great for the chamber’s existing businesses for expansion reasons and greater access to markets, as well as the recruitment of new business to Lloydminster.
That was one of the many benefits that frequent flyer, Glenn Stang, CEO of Synergy Credit Union foresees with WestJet Link.
“It’s going to give more capacity for travel in and out of Lloydminster,” he said.
“I think it’s going to give new connections for business opportunity.”
WestJet Link will also connect Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Cranbrook, and Prince George to the company’s global hub at the Calgary International Airport.
Stang also concurs with the chamber that WestJet will help companies such as Synergy with the retraction and retention of employees.
“A lot of times people ask about the amenities that you have in the community and having an airport in your backyard is really advantageous because people have more convenience to come and go,” he said.
“Hopefully, we’ll be able to attract more talent that might not otherwise come to Lloydminster—I think there are a lot of real benefits to this.”
Each Pacific Coastal aircraft will include six seats available in WestJet Link Plus, offering passengers advanced boarding, no charge for two checked bags and seating at the front of the plane.
Stang said WestJet Link is one more option to Central Mountain Air services that also flies to Calgary from Lloyd.
“When I check in with Lloydminster in the future with WestJet, if I’m headed out to Toronto, once I leave my bag with them in Lloyd, I don’t have to pick it up until I am in Toronto,” said Stang
“There is a lot of convenience with this.”
Stang spoke to the Source while driving to Edmonton to catch a flight to Vancouver.
He said had there been an opportunity to “jump a flight quickly in the backyard to Calgary over to Vancouver” he would have.
Lloydminster Mayor Gerald Aalbers says WestJet Link will bring several benefits to the city.
“The first one is we now have an airline that has the ability to access a worldwide connection,” he said.
“If someone was looking at coming for business here or to visit, they could book that flight from Germany for example, to fly right to Lloydminster.”
Coun. Glenn Fagnan was with Aalbers and other city reps at an Alberta Urban Municipalities Association meeting in Calgary when he heard the news WestJet Link is coming to Lloyd.
He said had WestJet Link already been available, his group may have saved money over car pooling based on low introductory one-way fares of $114.43 to Calgary and $142.93 return, all in.
“It probably would have been more economical when you look at the 10 hours it took us for driving return,” said Fagnan.
He said the Pacific Coastal planes to be painted in WestJet colours will attract other business to the city with their ability to land and takeoff in fog or at night.
Fagnan said he’s not sure if the planes will buy fuel at the airport, but he knows WestJet Link’s daily flights will be good for car rental vendors and airport advertising sponsors.
“They just got some extra value for the dollar,” he said, adding WestJet must have faith in the economy of Lloyd to put the city on its flight plans.
“It’s just something else that makes Lloydminster a great place to live and to work,” he said.
When the news broke at the AUMA, Aalbers booked a flight that evening to Halifax for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in June 3.
“They had an awful great seat sale with the announcement,” he said to fly directly from Lloydminster.
Aalbers said the city has invested in a number of airport improvements in recent years, with a facility that WestJet Link should find to its liking.
Last August, for example, the city reallocated $208,030 from its Street Improvement Program to rehabilitate sections of the Lloydminster Airport Taxiway.
The city has submitted an application this year to Transport Canada for an Airport Capital Assistance Program grant to resurface the main runway.
If the grant is announced in the spring of 2018, the airport team anticipates being shovel ready by June 1.
Wade Fasz, Lloydminster airport manager, said having WestJet provide service from the Border City is a big win for the airport and region, a fact acknowledged by the Lloydminster chamber.
“We also would really like to commend Lloydminster airport and the City of Lloydminster for the hard work in investing in modification upgrades to the airport and for recruiting WestJet Link as well,” said Minish.