Update: WestJet Encore announces Penticton-Calgary flights
Update: 12 p.m.
Travellers will pay a $79 introductory fare this fall when WestJet Encore launches its long-awaited service from Penticton to Calgary.
The airline announced Friday it will commence once-daily, non-stop flights on Oct. 26, following a two-year campaign by Penticton residents and community leaders to land it.
WestJet Encore president Ferio Pugliese said the six-month delay in starting is due to aircraft availability, with the company’s fleet expected to grow from 10 planes to 16 by year’s end, making the Penticton run possible.
The service will begin with a 78-seat turboprop leaving Calgary at 2:05 p.m, arriving in Penticton at 2:21 p.m., leaving again at 2:55 p.m. and landing back in Calgary at 5 p.m., all times local.
WestJet Encore expects to hire six people to handle operations here, said Pugliese, who confirmed local support made the flight a reality.
Besides renaming the city WestJetville for a day and staging a flash mob at the airport, city staffers also prepared a business case for the flight and met with the company.
“It’s not that you do a flash mob and you’re going to get aircraft service, but I will tell you that does help us because it shows the enthusiasm (for a service) the community is willing to take on,” said Pugliese.
Penticton Mayor Garry Litke also suggested a Western News article last week about city officials meeting with Air Canada gave WestJet the final push it needed to put down roots here.
“You guys have considerable online exposure and it didn’t take very long before your story came to the attention of the WestJet executives, and the very next day I got a phone call to say they were coming,” Litke said.
“It’s a great day to be mayor in Penticton, that is for sure,” said Litke.
The president of the Penticton and Wine Country Chamber of Commerce was similarly pleased because the flight will allow more people to live here and work elsewhere.
“That means the more opportunity for our local businesses to grow and the more opportunity for startup business,” said Campbell Watt.
Other airlines have tried and failed to establish a presence in Penticton, but Pugliese said WestJet Encore expects to stick around.
“Obviously it has to make money and it has to be profitable,” he said. But “we always work with communities, so if it ever got to a point where we felt that it was soft, we’d be looking at ways we could make sure that we salvage the service and make it work.”
Up to 35 WestJet staffers are expected in Penticton on Saturday at the Volunteer Appreciation Day Event at Gyro Park. Pugliese will address the crowd at the kick-off at 11 a.m., before visiting downtown businesses.
With files from Steve Kidd
Posted 8 a.m.
WestJet Encore will offer non-stop Penticton-Calgary flights beginning Oct. 26, the airline announced Friday.
"Penticton's community support and business case fits with our ongoing commitment to serving the Okanagan Valley," WestJet Encore president Ferio Pugliese said in a press release.
"We are excited to bring our low fares, great guest experience and convenient schedule to a community in need of air service options. Guests will now have access to 18 same-day connections to WestJet destinations out of Calgary."
"This is phenomenal news for the City of Penticton and the entire South Okanagan region," Penticton Mayor Garry Litke said in the release.
"There has been an overwhelming demand locally for increased air service to Alberta. The City has been working hard to secure this eastern route and respond to the region's needs, opening the door for increased business and tourism opportunities. We can't wait to board the first non-stop flight to Calgary."
The service will begin with one round-trip leaving Calgary at 2:05 p.m., arriving in Penticton at 2:21 p.m., leaving again at 2:55 p.m. and landing back in Calgary at 5 p.m.
Introductory one-way fares will start at $79.