WestJet says it will make Calgary its global hub in announcing pact with province | CBC News

The Alberta government and WestJet announced on Wednesday that they had signed a memorandum of understanding that promises to make Calgary and Alberta a hub for the aviation industry. 

As part of the agreement, the government committed around $73 million over a number of years toward the aviation and tourism industries in Alberta.

WestJet also said they will designate the Calgary airport as its only connecting hub within its network.

“Today’s announcement … is about making Alberta the leading province for aviation in Canada and we, as WestJet, are very proud to play a key role in this,” said CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech. 

“It is very critical because just by getting all these connecting passengers through this airport, we are able to offer direct routes that we wouldn’t be able to offer otherwise.” 

He says this means YYC will be the only airport where WestJet connects directly to intercontinental destinations.

Economic diversification, job creation

Part of the government’s $73 million, they said, will go toward Mount Royal University’s aviation program to train pilots and expand their hangar. 

About $7 million in capital and a total of $1.06 million will go to the post-secondary institution.

The government said the new operating funding will allow MRU to add an additional 40 seats in its aviation diploma program to help meet the labour market demand for pilots. 

The government will also expand bursary and student loan programs for in-demand aviation occupations, including pilots and aviation maintenance personnel.

Several people, including Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, were at Calgary International Airport on Wednesday when the announcement was made. (Mark Matulis/CBC)

“We’re facing a major global shortage of pilots,” said Premier Jason Kenney. “Alberta wants to embrace the opportunity of this investment by becoming a major source of skilled new pilots for WestJet and the entire industry.” 

The government will also fund a labour market training program of $5 million annually over three years to offset training costs in the aviation sector. It’s available to Alberta-based carriers and will prioritize operations from new international and intercontinental markets. 

Investing in tourism

Travel Alberta, which the province said is still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, will also benefit from additional investments with an increase in marketing funding. 

They’ll receive $10 million annually over five years, up from $6.5 million. 

“This is a banner day for job creation in Alberta, for the diversification of our economy, for the tourism industry, for passengers who will have more choice and lower prices, for new investment, for a global business,” said Kenney.

“It will be a game-changer for our economy.”

WestJet said the agreement represents a “multi-billion asset investment” into the region and the airport. 

The company said it will relocate all of its 787 Dreamliners — some of which are currently in Vancouver and Toronto — to Calgary by next summer. 

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