On a daily basis, a plane will leave from Victoria, making stops in Vancouver and Fort St. John on its way to Calgary and back. At the North Peace Airport, WestJet Encore President Ferio Pugliese said the community did a great job of communicating why "it just made sense" to come here.
"It makes sense for a lot of reasons," he argues, "You've got a big catchment here, a lot of heavy industry, there's a lot of capital investment going into this area, so we know it's condusive for both leisure travel and it's very condusive for business travel," in addition to the lack of competition.
That's what Mayor Lori Ackerman says proves the city is growing, and will benefit from additional air service.
"This really shows that we are ready for investment," she says. "This is going to decrease the cost of doing business for our businesses, this is going to assist us in recruiting and retaining skilled professionals that are needed for our healthcare and for so many other services that are provided here in the community.
District of Taylor Mayor and President of the North Peace Airport Society Fred Jarvis says that the addition of WestJet is meant to complement the existing service by Air Canada and Central Mountain Air. He believes it will build traffic, which in turn benefits the airport in the long run, as well as bring customers back from other communities' airports.
"We need partners like this to come in and help things grow, not to take place of anything that's happening now, but to make it grow," he argues. "WestJet, we very much welcome you into that role, and we look forward to a great, long, good experience with the growth that you will bring. We dearly need it to keep this facility up and going."
Although Encore is starting with only two planes, with orders in for 20, Pugliese says there's always the potential for growth and more service over time, and that WestJet is now in Fort St. John for the long haul.
"We're going to be liberating communities just like this with low-cost air travel and great service," he says. "We are here to open up communities like this, enrich lives through air travel and we hope that that goes both ways, that you're enriching our lives as well."
The company showed their belief in investing in communities this morning by giving local Big Brothers Big Sisters volunteer Kara Aleksich and her Little Sister Brianna Winiandy a travel voucher for three people to travel wherever WestJet flies. Brianna says she will definitely be using it to go to Disneyland with her mom and Big Sister.
"I'm looking forward to meeting all the characters and just going on all the rides and just enjoying the time with Kara and my mom," she says.
The WestJet team also made their way to Centennial Park to make the big announcement to the public. Those in the park received vouchers for $25 in WestJet dollars if they join WestJet rewards and book a flight by February 28, 2013 for travel until October 26, 2013.
Photos of the announcement at the airport and Centennial park are below:
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Erica is a reporter for Moose FM and energeticcity.ca in Fort St. John, B.C. She grew up in Victoria, B.C. and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec.