The possibility of WestJet jumping into the regional short-haul market is good news for Red Deer Airport, says the facility’s CEO.
“Certainly it’s a positive development, anytime we’ve got a mainline carrier looking at regional opportunities,” said R.J. Steenstra.
“The challenge will be, of course, to ensure that Red Deer is a target to be included in their network.”
And that, said Steenstra, can be advanced by a compelling business case in support of Red Deer Airport.
“We have to ensure that they understand the market potential for them here.”
The key will be showing how Central Alberta would fit into WestJet’s regional network and feed its primary network.
“If I can do that in the right way, then perhaps we’ll be successful and have the piece that we need for successful services out of Red Deer.”
WestJet pondered expansion to the Red Deer Airport almost a decade ago, but never acted. Steenstra said the 70-passenger Bombardier Q400s that WestJet is now considering are a much beetter option for Red Deer than the airline’s much larger Boeing 737s.
“The aircraft itself makes perfect sense for Red Deer Airport,” he said, pointing out that no infrastructure changes to the airport would be required.
The Q400 could easily fly to Vancouver or Winnipeg from Red Deer without having to refuel.
Letters have already been written to WestJet, and Steenstra said he’ll now be seeking to make a pitch to the airline — something he’s sure many other regional airports will also be doing.
“It’s certainly a great opportunity, but there’s still lots of work to be done.”
Despite the appeal of WestJet, Steenstra stressed that the airport continues to pursue other opportunities for passenger air service. Northwestern Air Lease, for instance, announced last year that it would offer flights between Red Deer and Kelowna, although that service has been postponed pending Transport Canada approval.
“We certainly look forward to them announcing their relaunch date, and then there are other opportunities for regional carriers that continue to percolate in the background.”