|Mayor Dan Ashton|
Although Penticton failed in its bid to be among the first destinations chosen for WestJet's new Encore regional airline, Mayor Dan Ashton remains positive that the city will also soon land the air carrier.
Monday's long-awaited proclamation saw WestJet Encore announce non-stop service between Nanaimo and Calgary, as well as links with Fort St. John from both Vancouver and Calgary.
New daily flights between Vancouver and Victoria were also announced. The new routes are due to start June 24.
Ashton said Monday he's optimistic that Encore service to Penticton is still pending.
"I would love that Penticton would've been announced in the first go-round, but I know that their airplanes are being phased in," he said.
WestJet Encore takes delivery of its first two 78-seat Bombardier Q400 aircraft in June, with five more expected by the end of the year when more route announcements are expected.
Ashton said that WestJet's decision to launch its Encore service in Western Canada also speaks well for Penticton's chances.
"It appears they're using the West to launch the new Encore, so that just makes it better for Penticton in the future," he said. "I'm looking forward to further announcements from WestJet."
The air links to Calgary from both Nanaimo and Fort St. John also bode well for Penticton to obtain air service to and from Calgary, he added.
The mayor pointed to Penticton's high-profile lobbying campaign, including the video of an airport flash mob last March that involved some 500 people.
"We've been active Ð we've been communicating with them in the sense of making them aware that Penticton is still here and looking forward to it," he said.
Ashton noted there are more than 90,000 people in the South Okanagan-Similkameen.
WestJet spokesman Robert Palmer said Monday 32 communities across the country have expressed interest in Encore service.
"As we take delivery of more aircraft, we will be adding more destinations," he said. "We're just getting started with this regional airline and it will take a little bit of time before we're able to serve large numbers of communities because we don't have the aircraft yet."
Penticton will be getting more flights to Vancouver, regardless of WestJet's decision.
Air Canada announced in December it would be adding a fourth daily flight between Penticton and Vancouver. The additional Air Canada Jazz flight, to depart in the early afternoon, will begin in May.
At present, Air Canada Jazz provides three daily flights from Penticton to Vancouver Monday through Saturday, with two flights on Sunday.