Air Canada plans spread far, quickly

It’ll be six weeks before Air Canada links the Red Deer Airport to the rest of the world.

It’ll be six weeks before Air Canada links the Red Deer Airport to the rest of the world.

But news of the connection has already travelled abroad.

Airport CEO RJ Steenstra said Monday that he’s aware of at least 132 media outlets that have reported on the international airline’s decision to offer three daily flights from the Springbrook-based facility to Calgary.

“We were picked up all over the world,” he said of reaction to the July 10 announcement.

“Our Twitter accounts just went wild. And everyone else who put it on their Facebook page or otherwise, it just took off.

“It exceeded my expectations, and I knew it was going to go like wildfire.”

Eighteen-seater Beechcraft 1900D aircraft operated by Air Georgian under the Air Canada Express brand will begin carrying passengers between the Red Deer and Calgary International airports on Sept. 3. Flights will depart from Red Deer at 5:30 a.m., 9:35 a.m. and 2:10 p.m., allow connections onward from Calgary. Return flights will arrive at 8:45 a.m., 1:20 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.

Steenstra said passengers began booking shortly after news of the new service came out. Angela Mah, manager of media relations with Air Canada, said “customer response to date is in line with our expectations.” She added that business passengers tend to book closer to their travel date.

Steenstra said economic spinoffs from Red Deer Airport’s new partnership with Air Canada are already evident.

“The immediate impact right here at this airport is likely 15 people gaining employment, between the airport and the partners who are serving Air Canada.

“Air Canada is already talking to us about who are partner hotels are, do we have rental car services and taxi cab services,” he added.

Red Deer Realtor Kevin Lapp thinks the new service will make Central Alberta a more appealing place to live. He said in a recent release that migrants to Central Alberta consider transportation links to be very important, and that Air Canada’s arrival should have a positive impact on the real estate market here.

Dale Russell, owner/broker of Re/Max Real Estate Central Alberta, doesn’t think the new air service will bring an influx of home-buyers.

“How big an impact it’s going to have on our population growth, I don’t know. It’s still only an hour to either airport (Calgary or Edmonton).”

But Russell welcomes the new service and expects to use it himself. He believes it will enhance Red Deer’s credibility in the eyes of outsiders.

Steenstra said daily passenger service from Red Deer to Calgary, and points beyond, will help keep existing businesses in the area and attract new ones. It will also help companies and other organizations that are planning conferences or trying to bring in resource people.

He said some critics have questioned why anyone would book a flight from Red Deer to Calgary.

“The point is you can now go from Red Deer to Toronto, or Red Deer to Houston, or Red Deer to L.A., or Red Deer to Las Vegas. And what you’ll find is that your fare between Red Deer and Las Vegas is very similar, if not exactly the same, as between Calgary and Las Vegas.”

Passengers flying from the Red Deer Airport can park for free, clear security here, and have their baggage checked through to their final destination, he added.

In addition to Air Canada’s new service, Northwestern Air offers flights to Fort McMurray, Abbotsford and Kelowna out of Red Deer Airport.

hrichards@bprda.wpengine.com