Cold Lake is hopeful for "a second date" with WestJet
Incentives offered to bring commercial airline services to the Lakeland
By: ASHLEY FOLEY
| Posted: Wednesday, Jul 18, 2012 11:20 am
The City of Cold Lake presented its proposal to WestJet recently in an effort to bring commercial air services to the Lakeland region, via the 4 Wing airport.
In total, 32 rural communities from throughout Canada were invited to WestJet’s open house in Calgary in late June. Cold Lake was among many northern communities to be chosen to attend, including Peace River, Lethbridge, Red Deer, Medicine Hat and Rainbow Lake.
Cold Lake Mayor Craig Copeland said the meetings were conducted as a “speed dating” session.
“We each had 20 minutes to sell your community and your passenger load and what your services are,” said Copeland. “They’re now going to reassess everything and over the next two months decide who’s going to get a second date and we’re hopeful that we’ll get a second date.”
Copeland said the City hired a company out of Calgary prior to the WestJet date to assist in developing proposals for the City to bring to three airlines they had in mind, WestJet included.
“So our presentation was bang-on what WestJet was expecting. We had all the data that WestJet required,” said Copeland, hopeful that WestJet will inquire further about bringing commercial air service to Cold Lake.
Copeland said there were a number of factors that bettered Cold Lake’s chances in being chosen for a “second date.”
“One of the attractive (features) of our whole region is people do fly a lot with WestJet from our area,” said Copeland, after researching statistics in flights to and from airports with a Cold Lake postal code.
Another major pull for the Cold Lake and Lakeland region is the increase in oil activity in northeastern Alberta, as well as the fact that oil companies are providing funds to sustain airports and infrastructure in the communities they work in.
“The oil patch, as everybody knows, is rising in our area,” said Copeland.
“The fact that the oil patch is interested in being part of the package (really helps). The oil companies that we’ve dealt with are very hopeful for getting WestJet to come from Calgary to Cold Lake,” said Copeland. “Between them and other user groups, we’re confident that we can come close to selling it.”
Copeland said there were pros and cons to sharing 4 Wing’s services. One major helpful indicator is that 4 Wing provides great air services, which are already fully developed and being used for large jets.
“We feel that we have the best airport. When you look at the 32 communities that were there, we got a good idea who at least half of them were, we feel that our 4 Wing airport matches up against everybody and beats everybody that’s on the table pretty good. 4 Wing is certainly the best airport in Alberta from the communities that were there,” said Copeland. “It’s pretty hard to beat the services that 4 Wing offers. We’re feeling pretty good.”
However, a major drawback is that commercial services will come second to the demands of the military.
“Everybody’s got to realize that the military is our first priority, we just have to make sure that the commercial air service can flow properly with 4 Wing,” said Copeland.
While many locals have their doubts, Copeland is very hopeful that an agreement will be reached between the City of Cold Lake, 4 Wing and West Jet.
“We’ve done it before, we worked with the wing commander. If West Jet announces they want to come to Cold Lake, we’ve got a lot of time to get ready, because you’re not going to have air service until mid-2013.”
Copeland believes it is just a matter of time until WestJet commercial services will be offered in Cold Lake.
“WestJet is definitely interested in the Cold Lake market, it’s just a matter of what year,” he said. “What we have to study now is if we don’t make the second date, do we pursue another airline? And the answer is yes.
“Cold Lake council is committed to brining back air service to Cold Lake, working with 4 Wing in terms of delivering a safe plane to Cold Lake and not impacting their normal course of business down on the wing.”
Part of the reason Copeland is so hopeful is because the City offered an “attractive,” incentive package to WestJet, should Cold Lake be chosen for commercial air services.
Details to the incentive package could not be released but Copeland did say if WestJet does not accept it, it is likely the incentive(s) will be offered to another airline company.
“It’s for the betterment of everyone in northeastern Alberta to get WestJet here,” he said. “There’s not an airport in northeastern Alberta that can compare to (4 Wing).”
“I hope we can get a second date,” laughed Copeland.