As the WestJet livery-clad Pacific Airlines’ Saab 340B aircraft touched down on the sunny, mountain-lined runways of Cranbrook’s Canadian Rockies International Airport, it signalled the completion of a project nearly a decade in the making.
The arrivals gate of the airport was buzzing with activity as a who’s who of BC faces mingled together in anticipation of the momentous occasion. Airport manager Tristan Chernove took to a podium, bordered on either side by WestJet banners, to thank the crowd and give them a little backstory as to how WestJet came to service the East Kootenay.
Chernove had many people to acknowledge and thank, notably expressing that this would not have been possible were it not for the success of the current business partners of Air Canada and Pacific Coastal Airlines, without whose work to drive passenger growth, Chernove said, WestJet would not be here today.
READ MORE: WestJet comes to the East Kootenay
Acknowledging the airport’s patrons themselves, Chernove said, “When I came and started talking with WestJet about wanting their service here in 2009, there were roughly 85,000 to 89,000 passengers coming through this airport, now we’re at 140,000 passengers and that tremdous growth is due to all of you being patrons of the airport and passing the word when you experience how good it is to fly in and out direct from here.”
Chernove introduced Robert Palmer, manager of public affairs for WestJet, who reminisced that the events of the day echoed the success story of WestJet itself.
“I’m reminded of how WestJet launched some 22 years ago,” he said. “To provide Canadians with more competition, more choices, and in doing so, providing lower airfares to make travel more affordable. Today we launch WestJet link, to do exactly the same thing for Canadians in small and medium-sized communities.”
In an interview following the ceremony, Palmer explained that a crucial part of the partnership was finding the right aircraft to suit the size of the community.
“The [Saab] 340B is one of the most popular commuter aircraft in the world. It’s a tremendous aircraft and it has the right seats, the number of seats on it, and that in combination with the right frequency is going to give us the success that we’re looking for here in the East Kootenay.”
Other speakers included Mayor Lee Pratt, Kimberley Mayor Don McCormick, Pacific Coastal’s director of business development and corporate communications Kevin Boothroyd, Chris Christopher McCurry CEO for the development corporation of the ?aq’am community, Wendy Booth, director of the RDEK, Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka and Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Doug Clovechock.
The gathering of people from various levels of government, corporations and different areas of the province highlighted the significance of this feat of collaboration, with a key focus on how this development will further increase access for people of the East Kootenay to travel Canada and the world, but for the world and Canada to travel to the East Kootenay.