On a daily basis, the Q-400 turboprop plane will leave from Victoria, making stops in Vancouver and Fort St. John on its way to Calgary and back. While service to the Energetic City has only just begun, Pugliese says that the more people use their service, the more likely it is to expand.
“It all comes down to demand. If we keep filling the planes, we’ll add more frequency and we’ll look at different connectivity.”
Station Manager Michael Parker admits that bookings trickled in at first, but have spiked at the last minute, increasing by 45 per cent in the last week. WestJet Public Relations Manager Robert Palmer recognizes that the service is new, and argues that the airline is more interested in long-term, sustainable demand.
“We often joke that the only thing short-haul about this is the flight. We’re here for the long-haul,” he says. “You need to run before you can walk, but at the same time the forward bookings are good, and that’s an indication to us that people are interested in the service. They’re willing to give it a try, and that’s key.”
He adds that flights to both Calgary and Vancouver mean being able to connect to almost anywhere else WestJet flies. The opportunity for reaching even more of the country is what President of the North Peace Airport Society Fred Jarvis says is most important about adding a third airline.
“It means that there will be the opportunity for so many more people to fly out of here,” he maintains. “There’s quite a lot of places that we need the routes to that we aren’t getting. We haven’t been able to get them in the past because they just couldn’t measure up, but with this momentum now, I’m sure that can continue to grow.”
Northwest B.C. is at the top of his list for areas to try and expand to, especially with the growth of industry.
Locally, WestJet has created 16 jobs at the North Peace Airport at both the check-in counter and baggage handling.
The airline is currently offering discount Encore fares to and from Fort St. John for travel until August 28, 2013, that must be booked by July 4.