Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

WestJet eyes city service to Brandon, Thompson

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WestJet may add regular flights between Winnipeg and Brandon and Winnipeg and Thompson over the next few years as it continues to expand its 10-month-old regional Encore service.

WestJet Encore president Ferio Pugliese, who was in Winnipeg on Thursday to address a Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce luncheon, stressed in a later interview both of those services are longer-term possibilities.

He said it will likely be two or three years before Winnipeg-Brandon flights can be added, and three to five years for a new Winnipeg-Thompson service.

"It's all depends on fleet availability... But it (a Winnipeg-Brandon service) certainly makes sense with the way we are building out the network," he said. "(And) Thompson is certainly on our list of communities we are giving consideration to."

Winnipeg Airports Authority president and CEO Barry Rempel said both new services would be welcome additions to the local market.

"It's all about connectivity."

Rempel said the nice thing about adding flights from Brandon to Winnipeg is some of those passengers would likely be catching a connecting flight to somewhere else, creating even more business for the WAA.

WestJet Encore currently offers daily, direct flights between Brandon and Calgary, and twice-daily, direct flights between Winnipeg and Regina and Winnipeg and Saskatoon. Earlier this winter, it announced that on June 27 it will also begin offering regular flights between Winnipeg and Thunder Bay.

In his speech, Pugliese noted when Calgary-based WestJet began flying out of Winnipeg in 2000, it was offering 44 flights per week to three Canadian destinations. Today, it's the WAA's biggest customer, offering 344 flights per week to 14 destinations, including three U.S. cities -- Palm Springs, Phoenix and Las Vegas.


-- Murray McNeill

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 19, 2014 B7

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