Inaugural flights are a big deal. You may not be able to see it right away; a few balloons and a tray of muffins with coffee at the gate are the first clues to a guest that a celebration is in order. Even if you don’t know that it is an inaugural flight, a celebration truly is in order, because everyone there is becoming one part of our greater history as we venture further and further into our growing network.
WestJet Encore inaugurals, and the guests on these flights, are a little bit more than a piece of WestJet’s history. Many of the guests we have met on the WestJet Encore inaugural flights are either going home or leaving home. Our country is vast and the geography, combined with weather, can at times be unforgiving, making air travel one of the safer and less time-consuming options when we want to visit our friends and family. Many have to travel to larger hubs in order to access air service, and many more don’t have the capability to do so.
Recently I was told of a guest we had on board. He was 85 years old and his first-ever flight was from Brandon to Calgary to visit family. He had never flown before because he refused to make the trek to Winnipeg just to board a plane. By coming on board with us, he made his own personal history.
Smaller but no less vibrant communities courting Encore are now making their own history. Canadians have fierce pride in their roots because we are a country that celebrates where we come from as much as where we are going. City councils, economic development boards, community leaders, loyal guests and, most vocally, WestJetters who have come from these communities have so many compelling reasons for air service to their community, and they are enthusiastically passing on those reasons to us. When a new WestJet Encore community is finally announced, it is not uncommon to see tears in the eyes of that community’s advocates. Then the tears are wiped away and an army of people roll up their sleeves and get to work to make sure that the first flight, the celebrated inaugural, is only the beginning.
When current WestJet Encore cities, and those yet to come in the New Year, celebrate their first Encore inaugural flight, they are also celebrating the fact that their greater community has collaborated and advocated on behalf of a place that is worth visiting and worth coming home to. We have many such communities still working hard for their own people, and WestJet Encore is working in turn to revitalize and revolutionize regional air travel.
The tenacity of communities advocating on behalf of their residents is the reason they succeed. Such tenacity is always on display at the inaugural celebration, and we have begun to anticipate the first question asked once we are off the plane: “When will you announce more service?”. It is a question that begs to be asked, and it is a question we take back with us with the hope of answering.
WestJet culture is reminiscent of the spirit displayed by these communities. Perhaps that is why it feels like you are coming home each time we land in a new city. When we announced that Terrace was going to be a new WestJet Encore destination, the Northwest Regional Airport Manager’s wife (now a WestJetter) commissioned one of the best Boeing 737 cake that side of the Rockies, and she did that because she cared. Encore communities care, and because they care, we succeed.
2014 will be another year of exciting inaugurals as we continue to liberate Canadians from the high cost of regional travel across central and eastern Canada, and as we launch our first transatlantic flight to Dublin. Wouldn’t that be a sight to see: an echo of the history that built the country we know today as a family from Ireland steps off a WestJet Encore aircraft.