Red Deer Airport is in the running for WestJet to land its planes on the tarmac, says airport CEO RJ Steenstra.
Steenstra said that Red Deer is one of 32 communities in Canada that was invited to participate in a presentation on regional airline service with WestJet.
“It’s very preliminary right now and there are lots of steps that have to come into effect,” said Steenstra. “But we’re very excited and pleased that we were provided an opportunity to present our community and really try and ensure they understand what is happening in Central Alberta.”
Steenstra gave an update on WestJet during a second quarterly report presentation to Red Deer city and county leaders this week.
The airport has been vying for years to have WestJet come to Red Deer.
“There really isn’t a market in Canada of this size that doesn’t have a national carrier,” said Steenstra.
The airport is making improvements, even in small ways.
Rental car services have resumed at the airport, which will diversify revenue. Avis Car Rental set up shop in June.
An automated teller machine was to be installed this month inside the airport.
New signs from Alberta Transportation were posted along Hwy 2 this month to show drivers where the turnoff is for the airport.
Steenstra also mentioned that Sky Wings Aviation is training 10 pilots from China. They entered the program in April.
“Those pilots are with us for a year and they are moving through all their certifications in order to fly commercial aircraft in China,” he said.
Northwestern Air Lease Ltd. was launched this spring and has direct non-stop service between Kelowna, Edmonton and Dawson Creek, B.C.
Steenstra said the airport is receiving positive reviews from customers. For one thing, parking is free, plus there is no security clearance through the Red Deer terminal.
The crew with Northwestern have been great as well, he added.
“We’re continuing to help them support the route as is,” said Steenstra. “If things go extremely well, then they can add frequency and look at different aircraft and destinations.”
The number of charter and scheduled passengers year-to-date (January through June) is 2,809. The number of aircraft movements is 24,260, which is trending 48 per cent over the same period in 2011.
Red Deer Airport’s total aircraft movements in 2011 was 44,276, making it the third busiest regional airport in Canada. Ottawa/Gatineau came in first with 49,467 movements and North Bay, Ont., had 47,710 movements.