WestJet heads to oil patch

Expanded links to Alberta’s oil patch could have significant benefits for the North Okanagan

Expanded links to Alberta’s oil patch could have significant benefits for the North Okanagan.

Starting May 12, WestJet will have seven direct flights a week between Kelowna International Airport and Fort McMurray, Alta.

“That’s huge news,” said Kevin Poole, Vernon’s economic development manager.

Poole anticipates direct flights will make it easier for individuals in the oil sector to live in the North Okanagan and get back to the patch for shifts.

“We have a lot of buyers in Fort McMurray looking at Vernon’s residential market to live here for the lifestyle,” he said.

“Local residential home builders will be thrilled about this announcement.”

Poole points out that purchasing homes in the North Okanagan, leads to oil workers making purchases at local shops as well as paying taxes.

“They bring their money back here and support the community. They aren’t low-income jobs.”

The flights will also make it easier for Vernon-based companies, such as electricians, to bid on work in Alberta.

“There are companies already here with their staff working in Fort McMurray and they want to live here,” said Poole, adding that there is the prospect of other firms opening Vernon offices based on lifestyle.

There will be seven flights a week from Fort McMurray to Kelowna and seven flights in the opposite direction starting May 12.

WestJet has also announced direct flights from Fort McMurray to Vancouver and Las Vegas and from Calgary to New York City.

“This latest schedule reflects the varied needs of the many guests who choose WestJet,” said John Weatherill, the airline’s director of network and schedule planning.