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WestJet to add Brandon

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BRANDON -- Starting this fall, Brandon flyers will be able to hop on a WestJet flight at McGill Field.

WestJet's Encore service, using smaller 78-seat turboprops, will first take off from the Brandon airport on Sept. 3, 2013.

An "important and exciting" official announcement is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the Brandon airport this afternoon — but much of the information has already been posted to the WestJet website.

The city sent out multiple teasers this morning, inviting people to the Brandon Municipal Airport for the announcement. Well-placed sources also told the Brandon Sun that the announcement will be WestJet landing in the city.

Brandon has been trying to persuade WestJet to bring regular air service to the city, ever since the airline announced its new Encore regional service last year.

Brandon was one of the communities that presented a business case to WestJet last June. The creative pitch included identification tags with phrases linked to Brandon, postcards with Brandon landscape and streetscape scenes, fake boarding passes to Brandon in a WestJet envelope and a mockup of a WestJet airline magazine.

As part of Brandon’s major push to woo WestJet, a petition was also launched, which garnered more than 10,000 signatures.

In February, however, WestJet announced that the first new cities serviced by Encore would be Fort St. John and Nanaimo, B.C.

Despite the fact that Brandon wasn't on the first list, civic boosters didn't lose hope — hopes that grew when WestJet recently signed on to be an official sponsor of the Manitoba Summer Fair.

The airline will take delivery of its first two Canadian-built, 78-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft in June and add five more by the end of the year. WestJet has firm orders for a total of 20 Q400s and options for an additional 25 over the next six years.

Expansion to new airports is dependant on when WestJet receives those planes, the airline has said.

The smaller planes may also have only a single flight attendant instead of the two that passengers would normally expect.

Earlier this month, Transport Canada granted WestJet an exemption to allow the airline to use a ratio of one flight attendant for every 50 passenger seats onboard an aircraft.

Regulations currently require one flight attendant for every 40 passengers on board an aircraft. However, for certain aircraft configured with up to 50 passenger seats, only one flight attendant is required.

Transport Canada said the exemption brings WestJet in line with other international standards including airlines based in the United States that fly to and from Canada with the same ratio.

Last week, the airline posted a first-quarter profit of $91.1 million during the first three months of 2013, up from $68.3 million in the same 2012 period.


--Brandon Sun


Updated on Monday, May 13, 2013 at 10:32 AM CDT: updates with confirmation WestJet will add Brandon

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