After five years, a Canadian airline is pleased with the growth it has seen out of the Nanaimo Airport.
When WestJet Encore, a regional airline owned by WestJet, began operations in June 2013, it had just two Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turbo-prop airplanes and only four routes, including Calgary to Nanaimo non-stop service. Today, the airline has 47 turbo-props and serves more than 30 destinations, including recently launching non-stop service from Nanaimo to Vancouver.
Charles Duncan, president of WestJet Encore, said the idea for WestJet to start a regional airline, using smaller airplanes in smaller markets wasn’t exactly an easy sell to everyone.
“The idea to get a smaller airplane and fly into smaller communities like Nanaimo was quite novel and even viewed as risky or controversial within the company at the time,” Duncan said.
Initially, WestJet Encore didn’t expect the Nanaimo-Calgary route to be as successful as it has been, according to Duncan, who said the Nanaimo route is very important to the airline.
“Nanaimo is truly one of those special, really important destinations for us. The flight has just done so well and we are really appreciative of the community,” Duncan said, adding that a lot of passengers on their flights are people flying back and forth to Alberta, university students and those heading down south for vacation.
While the WestJet Encore has had success in Nanaimo it has also hit turbulence along the way. The airline was forced to cancel non-stop service to Edmonton in March 2016, just three months after it launched.
While the airline has no plans to restore the service any time soon, Duncan wouldn’t rule out the possibility of the Edmonton route returning in the future. Duncan said with Calgary serving as a hub for WestJet and with the added service to Vancouver, there are plenty of connecting flights for travellers wishing to travel to Edmonton or northern Alberta.
“Our basic schedule right now is three flights a day to Calgary and then we have the one flight that goes over to Vancouver, so all four of those flights will have really good connections to Edmonton,” Duncan said.
WestJet Encore’s five-year anniversary comes during a period of expansion for the Calgary-based airline. WestJet’s newest subsidiary airline, Swoop, took the skies earlier this month. WestJet has also partnered with Pacific Coastal Airlines to launch WestJet Link, another regional airline that intends to connecting cities such as Prince George and Cranbrook to Calgary using smaller airplanes than the Bombardier turbo-props operated by WestJet Encore.
Duncan said WestJet is pleased with the growth in Nanaimo and just how successful WestJet Encore has been in Nanaimo them over the last five years. He said it’s unlikely Swoop will be landing at Nanaimo soon, but WestJet Link might be a possibility someday.
“That might be a way to serve the Nanaimo-Edmonton route,” Duncan said.
For more information, visit http://westjet.mediaroom.com/2018-06-21-WestJet-Encore-celebrates-five-years-of-flying.