Penticton rolls out the red carpet for WestJet

WestJet now boarding flights from Penticton to Calgary starting on Sunday with the inaugural flight touching down from Calgary at 2:21 p.m.

Capt. Jaren Belrose and first officer Shauna Epp on the flight deck of the WestJet Q400 look over a map of Penticton on the ground at Kelowna International Airport Thursday while waiting for passengers to start boarding. The same type of aircraft will be used in the direct service between Penticton and Calgary

Capt. Jaren Belrose and first officer Shauna Epp on the flight deck of the WestJet Q400 look over a map of Penticton on the ground at Kelowna International Airport Thursday while waiting for passengers to start boarding. The same type of aircraft will be used in the direct service between Penticton and Calgary

There’s gonna be a party.

They’ll be rolling out the red carpet for the Oct. 26 arrival of the inaugural WestJet Encore flight at Penticton Regional Airport.

And while there will be an invitation only ceremony for dignitaries in the terminal’s Sky High Diner, WestJet flight attendants Brook Nowak and Kristin Poitras have organized a bash of their own and everyone is invited.

“This not something that is separate but because they have very limited space inside, what we’re doing is just enhancing an already incredible celebration and we want everyone and Penticton and area to be there,” said Nowak, who was among the more than 30 company employees in Penticton for last spring’s announcement of the Peach City’s selection for the direct Calgary connection. “This way it will include all of the people of Penticton because they are the ones who are going to be keeping the service there for the long term.”

“I love the people here. The biggest small town ever is the way I describe Penticton because it’s a city but it still feels very personable and very mom and pop and everybody supports everybody.”

The fun gets underway at 1 p.m. and will continue to 3 p.m. During the last few days Nowak, who owns a business here, has reached out to many area merchants who have donated a wide range of goods and services which will be given out as prizes.

As well, there will be a raffle to win a pair of tickets anywhere WestJet flies.

Starting Oct. 26 the carrier will be offering daily, non-stop round-trip flights aboard it’s 78-passenger Bombardier Q400 NextGen turboprop aircraft.

Among those scheduled to be on the incoming flight the first day will be Ferio Pugliese, WestJet Encore president.

“Penticton’s community support and business case fits with our ongoing commitment to serving the Okanagan Valley,” said Pugliese. “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.”

As well, Penticton Mayor Garry Litke, who described getting the WestJet service as one of the highlights of his term as mayor, is also looking forward to the flight.

“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,” he said. “We can’t wait to board the first non-stop flight to Calgary.”

The initial flight schedule leaves Calgary at 2:05 p.m. (MDT) arriving in Penticton at 2:21 p.m. (PDT) leaving at 2:55 p.m. and getting into Calgary at 5 p.m.

While some restrictions apply, one-way fares begin at (all in) $103.03 for Penticton to Calgary and $134.53, Calgary to Penticton.

Higher airport fees in Alberta account for the price difference.

Also on board will be Robert Palmer, manager of WestJet’s public relations, who will be the master of ceremonies.

“It’s exciting because we’re coming to a community that we know will be truly supportive. For heaven’s sakes, they did a flash mob to communicate in no uncertain terms that they wanted the service, so we know we’re going to be welcomed with open arms,” he said. “That just makes it all the more exciting and the service is going well, we’ve looked at the forward bookings and it’s doing what we hoped it would.

“Low fares, great guest experience really is built into who we are.”

Executive director Chris Bower of Tourism Penticton, the organization currently negotiating the service agreement with the company is also excited about the startup.

“This represents the culmination of a lot of years of hard work and a lot of involvement,” said Bower. “With economic development and tourism so related, it’s a big deal for the visitor and also for people who are going out of here.”

He is looking forward to working with the airline similar to the way they have with Air Canada in developing tourism-related promotions down the road.