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JetLines looking at Red Deer

Red Deer Airport has been identified as a possible service centre for an “ultra-low-cost” air carrier that’s seeking to start up in Western Canada.

Vancouver-based Canada Jetlines Ltd. is soliciting investors to finance its plans for a deep-discount passenger air service.

Its business model involves selling tickets for 25 to 40 per cent less than competitors like Air Canada and WestJet, with its revenues supplemented by additional charges for things like luggage and carry-on baggage, food and beverages, roomier seats and seating in prime locations on planes.

The company has indicated it wants to target under-served Canadian markets, with Red Deer listed among the cities of interest.

“I’ve met with them and I’ve presented to them,” said RJ Steenstra, CEO of the Red Deer Airport Authority. “They have our market information.”

He feels Central Alberta meets the definition of an under-served market, and pointed out that the low operating costs at the Red Deer Airport should appeal to Canada Jetlines.

“We’re certainly very optimistic that Red Deer has the potential to bring in an airline such as this because the market is so intriguing and under-served.”

But, Steenstra stressed, it’s very early in the process and there’s no guarantee Canada Jetlines will ever get off the ground. Plus, he added, the Airbus A319 jets that the company plans to operate require a 6,000-foot runway — about 500 feet more than the Red Deer Airport has now.

“That would be the one stumbling block, potentially, with this.”

However, Steenstra said he’s encouraged that the local airport is at least in the Canada Jetlines conversation.

“I’m pleased to see the mention.”

Canada Jetlines has said it hopes to commence operations next summer with two aircraft, and then grow its fleet to 16 within 2 1/2 years. It expects to eventually expand into the primary air markets.

The Red Deer Airport is currently served by Air Canada, which flies to Calgary three times a day. Northwestern Air also flies from Red Deer to Kelowna six days a week, with four of those flights continuing on to Abbotsford; and from Red Deer to Fort McMurray four days a week.

Steenstra said Air Canada, which began flying out of Red Deer three months ago, is happy with its passenger counts.

“Overall I think we’re very pleased in terms of the numbers and where they’re continuing to grow, and the adoption that the market is taking to this service.

“That bodes well for the future.”

Meanwhile, added Steenstra, Northwestern Air is planning to station a third aircraft at the Red Deer Airport, with the possibility of two more next year.

“They really view Red Deer as a key component of their airline’s growth.”

Northwestern Air offers charter service out of the airport, as well as scheduled passenger service.

hrichards@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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