WestJet CEO visits YLW, commits to continued partnership between airline and airport – Okanagan | Globalnews.ca


WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech was in Kelowna, B.C., on Friday, to announce his company’s commitment to YLW, and the key role the city plays in the airline’s future.

“Kelowna is a key market for WestJet,” expressed WestJet CEO, Alexis von Hoensbroech.

“We do understand how critical our flights are, not just for tourism, but for post-secondary institutions, investment attraction, labour mobility and all the important economic priorities of the region.”

WestJet and the City of Kelowna have built a long-standing relationship that dates back 27 years. When the airline first took flight back in 1996, Kelowna was one of its first destinations.

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“Since then, we’ve made our way to be the number one airline in Kelowna, serving at least half if not two-thirds of all air capacity seats here,” said von Hoensbroech.

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“Kelowna is not just a passenger destination for us, but it’s also a key maintenance centre for us. We are really proud to be working with KF Aerospace for 27 years and being part of the great success story at KF Aero, which as you probably know is also the largest single employer in Kelowna.”

Last month, WestJet announced three new direct destinations for YLW, which are Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Regina. Von Hoensbroech feels adding new flights will help bring in more tourism and provide and economic boost to the region.

“This summer season, we are increasing our overall seat capacity in Kelowna by 28 per cent, including 52 frequencies a week to our hub in Calgary, with new flights to and from Japan and to seven key markets in Europe that will hopefully bring a lot of inbound tourists to Kelowna as well,” said von Hoensbroech.

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In February, YLW announced that Alaska Airlines would no longer be offering direct flights from Kelowna to Seattle between April and December, which was the airport’s only direct flight to the U.S., but WestJet’s CEO, however, says he’s looking at the possibility of reconnecting Kelowna to our neighbours to the south.

“We always observe the market and see what opportunities arise, and Seattle or also other U.S. destinations are always on our radar for cities linked to Kelowna for sure,” said von Hoensbroech.

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YLW’s director says the airport finished 2022 with 85 per cent of their pre-pandemic numbers, but with the announcement of these new flights, YLW director Sam Samaddar expects to surpass those numbers this year.

“When we look at where does Kelowna sit with respect to the other airports in Canada, we are at the top one-third in terms of recovery. We’re seeing it as a very positive sign,” explained Samaddar.

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“WestJet’s commitment to Kelowna has allowed us to grow exponentially to become the 10th busiest Airport in the country.”

As Kelowna’s population continues to grow, the city’s mayor, Tom Dyas, says adding new flights will be beneficial to both residents and visitors.

“WestJet is a highly valued partner at Kelowna International Airport and for our entire City,” said Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas.

“We know we’re a growing region, and with a growing region comes demand upon services to bring to this particular region, but it’s also for our residents, and family visiting from other areas.”

The new flights to Winnipeg, Saskatoon and Regina are expected to take off in April.

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