WESTJET is considering Terrace as one of the destinations its new regional airline could service when it takes to the air next year.
And it won’t know if its made the airline’s schedule until next January, says Northwest Regional Airport manager Carman Hendry, who was interviewed by Westjet officials in Calgary at their invitation two weeks ago.
Officials from 30 airports across the country each spent 30 minutes answering questions from three Westjet officials, said Hendry.
“They wanted to know everything,” said Hendry. “Our passenger statistics, our runway length, all about our infrastructure, light, hold room capacity, [aircraft parking] aprons, what the market was, who was serving the market, what the baggage handling capabilities were, everything,” he said.
The list of questions included what the current airlines charge and what the market would be for an east-west service, Hendry continued in adding the officials already knew about Terrace and area.
“They asked if we thought Terrace is situated to be a regional airport and, of course, I said yes,” he said.
Hendry said information put together by the Kitimat-Terrace Industrial Development Society helped outline the state of the regional economy.
Speculation on routes and scheduling for Westjet’s regional airline has been growing across the country ever since plans were first announced in January.
From information gathered at the Calgary session, Hendry said the new airline would start with routes at one end of the country and work its way toward the other end.
“From what we were told they would be publishing a schedule sometime in January and start in the latter part of 2013,” he said.
Westjet has already chosen the plane it will use – the Dash 8-Q400, the latest in Bombardier’s Dash series known for its efficiency and quiet running.
Hendry, who was able to walk through a Q400 during his visit to Calgary, was impressed with its legroom.
“This new aircraft has 78 seats and is 28 per cent more efficient per seat,” he said of fuel economy.
“On trips of 600 [nautical] miles or less, it can compete time-wise with a regional jet,” Hendry continued. “It could get here from Vancouver in just over an hour.”
By comparison both Hawkair and Air Canada Jazz service the Vancouver to Terrace run with 37-passenger Dash 8-100s and 50-passenger Dash 8-300s.
One clue as to what Westjet may already be thinking came out during a presentation by a company official at the BC Chamber of Commerce Transportation Summit held in June, said Hendry.
“He said there were two markets they were very interested in – Fort St. John and Terrace,” Hendry noted.