WestJet celebrates 10 years at Comox Valley Airport
For its 10th anniversary at the Comox Valley Airport, WestJet received a special song written and performed by Todd Butler.
Butler, who was on the very first WestJet flight from Calgary to Comox, emceed a celebration for WestJet's 10th anniversary last Friday in the baggage claim area at the Comox Valley Airport.
The event celebrated the positive impacts WestJet's direct flights to Calgary and Edmonton have had on the Comox Valley.
Brad Minton, chair of the Comox Valley Airport Commission, looked back at the forces that brought WestJet to the Valley.
"As we celebrate this important milestone today, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on how we arrived here because there are so many groups that played a role in attracting and keeping WestJet in the Valley," he said.
He thanked representatives from 19 Wing Comox, the City of Courtenay, the Town of Comox, the Village of Cumberland and the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce.
"These groups, along with our passengers and community at large have played an integral role in bringing WestJet to the Valley, and they continue to work co-operatively with the airport administration to support that route," he said.
Dianne Hawkins, CEO of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the changes that have occurred since WestJet started flying to Comox.
"In the last 10 years, I would say WestJet has certainly assisted in putting the Comox Valley on the map," she said.
In 2000, before WestJet began flying into Comox, the Comox Valley Airport was serving just under 73,000 passengers. Ten years later, the airport serves almost 300,000 passengers a year, and 224,000 of those are WestJet passengers, Hawkins told the crowd.
In 2010, the median home price in the Comox Valley was $330,000, an increase of almost $200,000 from 2001 when WestJet direct flights began coming from Alberta.
In 2009, buyers from Alberta accounted for 16 per cent off all residential property sales in the Comox Valley, noted Hawkins.
"That's really huge," she said. "But then there's the community benefits. I think about the opportunity for all of us and the fact it brings families together. We have the opportunity to fly back and forth and visit our kids, and people visit their grandkids. It's really opened up our world in the Comox Valley and made us a lot more accessible to a lot of people who love to golf and love to play in the Comox Valley. And that's what it is about; it's about our community."
Tim Croyle, director of WestJet Vacations, shared WestJet's history, noting WestJet started in 1996 with three planes, 200 employees and only five destinations in western Canada.
In March 2001, WestJet started non-stop service from Calgary to Comox. The year after that, WestJet added non-stop service to Edmonton, and in 2009, it added Puerto Vallarta.
WestJet now has 96 aircraft, 8,000 employees and 71 destinations across 13 countries.
"Today in Comox, we offer connections through Edmonton and Calgary to most of those 71 great destinations," said Croyle. "This really has been an amazing growth story for WestJet, and Comox has certainly been a part of that success."
Croyle thanked all the people of the Comox Valley who fly WestJet.
There are 25 "WestJetters" who live and work in the area, and WestJet has supported more 100 charities and organizations, noted Croyle, who thanked the local WestJet team.
"We have a great partnership with the Comox Valley Airport and look forward to continuing working with all of you in the future," he said.
Shirley de Silva, CEO of the Comox Valley Airport, led a toast to WestJet just before Butler started singing about "takin' care of WestJet."
"Last year, almost 224,000 YQQ passengers stepped aboard WestJet flights, and this would not have been possible without the knowledge, resources and commitment of everyone here," she said. "The result was the creation of additional travel opportunities for Comox Valley residents, increased tourism for the region and a number of spinoff benefits, which include increased job creation, tax revenues and residential property sales."