WestJet plans sparks interest in West Kootenay

Airline pondering more regional service to smaller airports

Greater Trail’s economic development office is keen on taking advantage of WestJet’s plan to provide short-haul regional service come next year.

Sandy Santori, executive director of the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation (LCIC), said he connected with the airline last week when it made the exciting announcement.

“We’ve made the call but it’s very, very premature at this stage of the game,” he said Tuesday. “We’re always looking at ways in which we can improve our airport and we thought we’d see if that was an option for the Trail Airport.”

But Santori has yet to hear back from WestJet, which he imagines is getting inundated with calls.

The airline that provides scheduled service throughout its 71-city North American and Caribbean network announced last week that it would like to go back to its roots and focus on short hauls, using a fleet of about 40 smaller turboprop aircrafts.

The move is to serve small communities that have asked for its service, optimize the

size of its aircrafts to efficiently increase frequency, and create new connections between existing WestJet markets.

Trail is not the only city vying to get the airline to service its area.

In fact a Facebook group pushing to bring WestJet to Castlegar already has nearly 800 people following it in hopes of getting the airline’s attention.

“At the end of the day, the objective of the LCIC and the regional district has always been to improve the reliability of air service to this entire region, be it through Castlegar or be it through the Trail regional airport,” said Santori. “This isn’t about competing against Castlegar, this is about working together so we can ensure that getting in here is very reliable and affordable for people who choose flying as a mode of transportation.”

Santori assured that his office is very happy with the service Pacific Coastal Airlines delivers and doesn’t intend to look for a replacement. The West Coast airline is currently looking into the logistics of connecting the West and East Kootenay to Kelowna.