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B.C. residents using social media in bid to attract WestJet service

Feb. 9, 2012, Penticton, B.C. - An Okanagan resident says he's using social media to attract service from a major airline.


February 9, 2012
By The Canadian Press

Rob Murphy, a resident of Penticton, B.C., said he set up a page on Facebook, just weeks after WestJet announced it was considering offering a regional carrier service for smaller markets.

Murphy wants the Calgary-based company to begin service to Penticton Regional Airport, and as of Sunday his Facebook page had attracted almost 850 members.

"I realized Penticton would be potentially one of the markets they would look at,'' he said. "I thought, 'We should be maybe ahead of the curve, in terms of courting them again.'''

In September 2007, Pacific Coastal Airlines began offering daily flights to Vancouver and Calgary from Penticton but pulled out of the community after about 16 months, citing low passenger numbers.

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Murphy said WestJet would be different because he thinks the company is larger and has deeper pockets.

Last week, the new short-haul carrier WestJet Airlines Ltd. announced it was considering operating separately from the main airline.

CEO Gregg Saretsky said the move would benefit the main network and draw more passengers from smaller destinations into major hubs.

WestJet's fleet currently comprises one type of aircraft, Boeing 737s that can carry between 119 and 166 passengers. Those planes are too big to economically shuttle passengers between small destinations.

Murphy said he thinks the city has a good chance of attracting the airline to Penticton and has corresponded with officials on Twitter.

While Murphy knows luring the airline will require help from city and regional officials, he said "ground-level support does make a difference'' in the company's eyes.

"WestJet knows there are a number of people locally who want them here, and there's a number of people in other destinations who would fly into here,'' he said.