New air­line to fly Cape Bre­ton’s friendly skies

WestJet Encore launches year-round daily ser­vice be­tween Syd­ney and Hal­i­fax

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS SHAN­NON

Cape Bre­ton­ers now have another op­tion when fly­ing to Hal­i­fax and be­yond with the in­tro­duc­tion of WestJet Encore on Wed­nes­day.

The air­line for­mally in­tro­duced its new year-round Syd­ney-to-Hal­i­fax ser­vice in front of a mixed crowd of busi­ness peo­ple, politi­cians, pas­sen­gers wait­ing for their flights, and fam­ily and friends see­ing loved ones off.

WestJet Encore, a wholly owned sub­sidiary of WestJet, is a no-frills, 78-seat car­rier.

Com­pany CEO Fe­rio Pugliese said the move into Syd­ney was about giv­ing peo­ple more op­tions when book­ing a flight out of J.A. Dou­glas McCurdy Syd­ney Air­port.

“The com­pe­ti­tion I be­lieve is in here five times a day. This com­mu­nity doesn’t have any other choices and fares are high,” Pugliese said.

He said it’s about bring­ing com­pe­ti­tion to new mar­kets and hav­ing ri­val air­lines such as Air Canada re­spond to their price point. WestJet Encore Syd­ney­bound flights will leave Hal­i­fax ev­ery day at 12:35 p.m.; in Syd­ney, it’ll leave at 2 p.m. for Hal­i­fax Stanfield In­ter­na­tional.

When WestJet an­nounced in Jan­uary its in­ten­tion to ex­pand routes in At­lantic Canada, it of­fered an in­tro­duc­tory fare of $119.20 for a one-way ticket from Syd­ney to Hal­i­fax.

How­ever, buy­ing a ticket the same day for that inau­gu­ral 2 p.m. flight to Hal­i­fax Wed­nes­day cost $253.14

“As you get closer to your de­par­ture date in our busi­ness air­fares do tend to rise. We try not to do that too much but you’ll see av­er­age fares in that $120 range. We want to make it af­ford­able,” Pugliese told the Cape Bre­ton Post.

To pur­chase a one-way ticket Wed­nes­day on the Air Canada Jazz flight to Hal­i­fax, which left 20 min­utes af­ter the WestJet Encore flight, would cost $399.

The price for an Air Canada ticket then dropped con­sid­er­ably for the 7:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day flight to Hal­i­fax, match­ing WestJet’s price of $253 for a one-way ticket.

A seat sale on WestJet Encore is ex­pected later this month and into Au­gust. It will see one-way flights to Hal­i­fax as cheap as $136.

Many pas­sen­gers pre­par­ing to board the inau­gu­ral WestJet flight to Hal­i­fax were mak­ing con­nec­tions to other cities in the coun­try.

James Rice of Syd­ney Mines was leav­ing on the flight to Hal­i­fax, on his way to visit his four grand­chil­dren in Ed­mon­ton over the next 10 days.

“It’s a pretty good price ac­tu­ally. It wasn’t out­ra­geous. I booked it awhile ago but it was a rea­son­able flight, rea­son­able price,” he said prior to en­ter­ing se­cu­rity screen­ing at the air­port.

One fre­quent flyer, Kelly Steele, said she hoped the plane would have more legroom than Air Canada’s dis­count car­rier, Rouge.

“My hus­band can sleep on any plane and he couldn’t even sleep, it was that un­com­fort­able,” she said.

Steele, who’s orig­i­nally from Syd­ney but now lives in Monc­ton, N.B., was see­ing fam­ily off at the air­port Wed­nes­day.

She said she couldn’t see her­self tak­ing WestJet Encore to Hal­i­fax un­less she was grab­bing a con­nect­ing flight there.

“I can’t af­ford it. It would be too much money for a re­turn trip ( from Hal­i­fax). Say I drove there and flew home, I might con­sider that.”

The ex­panded ser­vice will no doubt at­tract the busi­ness trav­eller, Pugliese said. But WestJet’s tar­get au­di­ence still re­mains the leisure travel mar­ket, he added.

“What we’ve tried to do with this ser­vice is the con­nec­tion comes into Hal­i­fax and al­lows for con­nec­tions in the same day to Ot­tawa, to Toronto, which will bring you into Western Canada, and even into St. John’s.

“It’s a va­ri­ety of trav­ellers but at this stage it’s still largely leisure travel.”

Cape Bre­ton Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity Mayor Ce­cil Clarke said the move by WestJet proves there are com­pa­nies con­fi­dent in the re­gion’s eco­nomic prospects.

“When you see ex­pand­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties, when you see com­pe­ti­tion in our mar­ket­place, and when you see fair ticket pric­ing and also the con­nec­tiv­ity for per­sonal and busi­ness travel, this is what brings it all to­gether and makes it great for our com­mu­nity,” he said.

CHRIS SHAN­NON/CAPE BRE­TON POST

WestJet Encore’s Bom­bardier Q400 NextGen tur­bo­prop air­craft ar­rived at J.A. Dou­glas McCurdy Syd­ney Air­port on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon to great fanfare. The Syd­ney-to-Hal­i­fax route will be a year-round daily ser­vice for the car­rier.

CHRIS SHAN­NON/CAPE BRE­TON POST

WestJet Encore em­ploy­ees hud­dle around com­pany CEO Fe­rio Pugliese, sec­ond from right, dur­ing a group photo op us­ing a selfie stick to mark the start of the new Syd­ney-to-Hal­i­fax daily ser­vice Wed­nes­day.

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