Category: Saskatoon YXE

WestJet cancels 10 Sask. flights to sunny locations after Max 8 grounding continues

News provided by CBC News – link to full story and updates

Flights to Phoenix, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta affected, not known when flights will return to normal

CBC News · Posted: Sep 10, 2019

A Boeing 737 Max 8 in Westjet’s hangar in Calgary. (Mia Sheldon/CBC)

Saskatchewan travellers looking to fly south for the winter this year might be in for a bumpy ride.

This week, WestJet announced flight cancellations from airports in Regina and Saskatoon. 

The company blamed the disruptions on Boeing’s 737 Max 8 jets. The planes were pulled from service by Transport Canada after 346 people were killed in crashes involving Indonesia’s Lion Air in 2018 and Ethiopian Airlines in March of this year. Both incidents involved the Max 8.

“Guests who hold a current reservation impacted by this update will be notified proactively if there are changes to their itinerary,” wrote WestJet spokesperson Morgan Bell. “Where possible, we will work to substitute other aircraft directly onto a route and will not impact a guests itinerary so notifications will not be necessary.”

The following flights will be affected:

  • Saskatoon-Phoenix: Three weekly flights suspended.
  • Regina-Orlando: One weekly flight suspended.
  • Regina-Phoenix: Three weekly flights suspended.
  • Regina-Cancun: suspended one weekly flight in November. WestJet will operate one weekly flight in December.
  • Regina–Puerto Vallarta: One weekly flight suspended. WestJet will continue to operate once weekly in November. Two weekly flights will be suspended in December.

Air Canada and Sunwing had already announced plans to pull all Max 8s from its schedule until next year.

WestJet said the suspensions are temporary and that flights will resume once the Max 8 is cleared to return to service. However, that won’t happen until January 5, at the earliest. 

Transport Canada hasn’t said when the ban will be lifted.

Boeing says a system designed to help keep the Max 8 stable seemed to be a factor in each crash.

Many other governing bodies, including China, the United States and the European aviation authority, have banned the planes from their airspace.

WestJet currently owns 13 Max 8 jets, accounting for 10 per cent of its fleet.

Many other flights from Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto have also been affected.

With files from Ian Hanomansing

Canada’s Airlines, Airports Among World’s Worst For Delays, And It Could Soon Get Worse

News provided HuffingtonPost.ca – link to full article – with a hint from P.N.

By Daniel Tencer 4 July 2019

Under a new “passenger bill of rights,” airlines will be able to leave passengers stuck on the tarmac for longer than the current standard.
An airplane taking off at Toronto's Lester B. Pearson International
An airplane taking off at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson International Airport.

MONTREAL ― Canadian airports and airlines are some of the worst performers worldwide when it comes to flight delays, and new federal rules that allow passengers to be stuck on the tarmac for longer could make things worse.

All but one of Canada’s major airlines rank in the bottom half for on-time performance in a new survey from travel data provider OAG. 

Canada’s best performer, WestJet, ranks 57th out of 125 airlines surveyed, with 77.1 per cent of all flights arriving on time. The country’s worst performer, Sunwing, ranks as the second-worst airline in the world, 124th out of 125, with only 57.8 per cent of flights on time.

Sunwing experienced numerous flight glitches in recent years, including major delays in Toronto and Montreal in April, 2018, that led to a fine from the Canadian Transportation Agency.

Canada's Airlines, Airports Among World's Worst For Delays, And It Could Soon Get

Looking at airports, Canada doesn’t fare much better. Our best airport, in Grande Prairie, Alta., ranks 108th out of 505 airports surveyed.

Toronto’s two commercial passenger airports, Pearson and Billy Bishop, rank as the two worst airports in Canada and among the worst in the world ― 475th and 489th, respectively.

Interestingly, there is a yawning east-west divide, with western Canadian airports performing better than others.

Canada's Airlines, Airports Among World's Worst For Delays, And It Could Soon Get

The survey comes as Canada is about to launch a new “passengers’ bill of rights” that some critics say will make it easier for airlines to delay flights.

Under the new regulations, airlines will be able to keep passengers stuck on the tarmac for up to three hours, plus an additional 45 minutes if the airline believes takeoff is imminent.

Currently, Canada has no government-enforced limits on tarmac delays, but airlines themselves had standards built into their tariffs. The industry standard was 90 minutes, which is also what a Senate committee recommended be the rule in the new passenger bill of rights. The government rejected that recommendation.

Airlines themselves have been pushing for longer tarmac delays. Air Canada extended its maximum tarmac time to four hours in 2018.

Additionally, it will be very difficult to get compensation from airlines in most cases where flights are delayed or passengers are denied boarding, said Gabor Lukacs, a prominent consumer advocate who has challenged airline practices in courts.

Watch: Here are the budget airlines in Canada. Story continues below.

Lukacs said he worries about the possibility of longer delays under the new rules because “when something becomes legal, they will do it. On the other hand, the counterargument is it’s in the airline’s best interest to get passengers to their destination as quickly as possible.”

Lukacs’ advocacy group, Air Passenger Rights, has accused the government of letting the airline industry dictate the new passengers’ bill of rights.

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Marc Garneau said the tarmac delay rule was decided “based on operational realities and international best practices. For example, in the United States, air carriers are required to offer the option to disembark after a three hour delay on domestic flights, and a four hour delay on international flights.”

While airlines frequently blame weather for flight delays, data from the U.S. federal government shows that extreme weather events are responsible for fewer than 5 per cent of flight delays in the U.S. The most common reason for delays was late-arriving aircraft, meaning flights delayed because earlier flights were delayed. This accounted for nearly 42 per cent of U.S. delays. Canada does not currently keep track of this type of data.

But Lukacs points out that Canada has much harsher weather than most of the U.S., so it may not be a fair comparison. And Toronto’s worst-in-the-country Billy Bishop Airport has unique issues to deal with because it’s on an island.

“This may be an apples to oranges comparison,” he told HuffPost Canada by phone.

Nonetheless, Canada’s poor weather doesn’t explain why Alaska Airlines has a higher on-time percentage than any Canadian airline (80.7 per cent) and is the third best among U.S. airlines.

Lukacs argues these on-time rankings are incomplete: There isn’t enough data to determine, for instance, whether it’s a particular airport or a particular airline that’s behind delays in a given place.

Either way, airlines should be taking bad weather into account when planning their schedules, Lukacs said.

“If airlines and airports ignore the weather realities, then you have guaranteed, built-in failure,” he said.

Air Canada to Launch Daily Non-Stop, Year-Round Calgary-Terrace Service; Increases Capacity on Key Regional Routes

News provided by Air Canada/CNW

  • New Terrace route and added capacity supports economic growth in Skeena Valley area
  • Capacity increasing for Vancouver Island, Northern BC, BC Interior, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Winnipegroutes

MONTREAL, July 3, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada today announced it will launch daily non-stop, year-round flights between Calgary and Terrace beginning Oct. 28, 2019, which will complement the airline’s five times daily flights between Vancouver and Terrace.  Air Canada is also increasing capacity on key regional routes across Western Canada this winter with its flexible fleet including continued deployment of the popular Bombardier Q-400 aircraft.

“We are very pleased to add a new route linking Northern BC with our Calgary hub this fall in response to economic growth in the Skeena Valley area.  The new daily, non-stop flights between Terrace and Calgary will not only offer convenient flight options in response to travel demand between these two respective areas, but also the choice of another hub where easy connections to and from our extensive network are available.  Further, with significant development projects underway in the Terrace-Kitimat area, we are also strategically boosting capacity on our Vancouver-Terrace route this winter with five daily flights. With these new schedule enhancements, Air Canada will offer the most flights and options to travel easily between Terrace-Kitimat and anywhere across North America and internationally,” said Mark Galardo, Vice President, Network Planning at Air Canada.

“We have also increased capacity this winter in several other regional markets in Western Canada. Following the introduction of more comfortable, fuel efficient and faster Q-400 aircraft earlier this year, we will continue deploying the aircraft this winter to the BC Interior, Northern BC, Vancouver Island and Northern Alberta communities, providing more seats and optimizing the most connections between our extensive regional and global markets.”

“And finally with Air Canada’s varied and flexible fleet, this fall and winter, we are also pleased to add capacity on our Whitehorse, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg routes with larger Airbus A319/A320 and CRJ-900 aircraft. Customers on these services can take advantage of our Business Class and wi-fi options,” concluded Mark.

“The Airport Society is thrilled to have another route added to our business schedule. Air Canada has been a valued partner in helping us create the true regional airport. We look forward to growing with them in our region,” said Terrace-Kitimat Airport Society President Gary MacCarthy.

Increased services across Western Canada regional markets this fall and winter peak compared to last year include:

RouteFrequencies & Aircraft*Capacity Increase
Calgary-TerraceDaily with Q-400snew
Vancouver-Terrace5 x daily with Q-400s+30%
Vancouver-Prince Rupert2 x daily with Q-400s+56%
Vancouver-Smithers2 x daily with Q-400s+56%
Vancouver-Fort St. John4 x daily with Q-400s+20%
Vancouver-Kamloops5 x daily with Q-400s+56%
Vancouver-Penticton3 x daily with Q-400s+56%
Vancouver-Comox3 x daily with Q-400s+56%
Vancouver-SandspitDaily with Q-400s+56%
Vancouver-Saskatoon3 daily with CRJ900s offering Business and Economy Class+44%
Vancouver-Regina3 daily with CRJ900s offering Business and Economy Class+44%
Vancouver-Whitehorse2 x daily with A319s/A320s offering Business and Economy Class+24%
Calgary-Kamloops2 x daily with Q-400s+56%
Calgary-Winnipeg3 x daily with A319s/CRJ900s offering Business and Economy Class+40%
Edmonton-Fort McMurray3 x daily with Q-400s+70%
Edmonton-Grande Prairie2 x daily with Q-400s+56%
*Detailed schedules are available at aircanada.com

All flights are scheduled to provide convenient, point-to-point travel, as well as easy connections to Air Canada’s extensive domestic, US and international network at Vancouver and Calgary.  Customers also collect and redeem Aeroplan Miles through Canada’s leading loyalty program when travelling with Air Canada, and eligible customers have access to priority check-in, Maple Leaf Lounges at main airports, priority boarding and other benefits.

Air Canada Summer 2019 Western Canada service adjustment

News provided by RoutesOnline.com

By Jim Liu | Posted 30 April 2019

Air Canada during summer season is adjusting service in Western Canada, as the airline continues moving most service to Dash8-Q400 aircraft, instead of -300 (or -300/Q400 mix, based on comparison with summer 2018 season). Planned changes, effective 01MAY19, as follows.

Calgary – Kelowna Dash8-Q400 service increases from 3 to 4 daily (All flights operated by Q400)
Calgary – Saskatoon Dash8-Q400 service increases from 3 to 4 daily (All flights operated by Q400)
Calgary – Winnipeg 2 daily A320 and 1 daily CRJ900, replacing 4 daily CRJ900/Dash8-Q400
Vancouver – Comox 4 daily service operated by Dash8-Q400, instead of 5 daily Dash8-300
Vancouver – Kamloops 4 daily service operated by Dash8-Q400, instead of 5 daily Dash8-300/Q400
Vancouver – Nanaimo 7 daily service operated by Dash8-Q400, instead of 8 daily Dash8-300/Q400
Vancouver – Penticton 3 daily service operated by Dash8-Q400, instead of 4 daily Dash8-300
Vancouver – Prince Rupert 2 daily service operated by Dash8-Q400, instead of 3 daily (weekdays) Dash8-300. Aircraft change from 01JUN19
Vancouver – Sandspit 2 daily service operated by Dash8-Q400, instead of Dash8-300/Q400. Aircraft change to all-Q400 from 01JUN19
Vancouver – Smithers 2 daily service operated by Dash8-Q400, instead of 3 daily Dash8-300

Kelowna and Saskatoon airports receive federal funding to promote international connections

Provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada/CNW

KELOWNA, BC, April 18, 2019 /CNW/ – Saskatoon and Kelowna airports are important destinations for both tourists and business travelers. Maintaining international flights into both centres, and promoting new flights, is essential for increasing economic development and tourism opportunities.

Today, Stephen Fuhr, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD), announced $840,000 in funding for the Saskatoon Airport Authority, in partnership with the Kelowna International Airport, to promote tourism and trade through developing and sustaining trans-border air routes for Saskatoon and Kelowna airports.

Through this investment, the Saskatoon and Kelowna airports will work to develop strategies and marketing campaigns to increase trans-border air passenger traffic in their two regions. The initiatives will target airlines, while also marketing Saskatoon and Kelowna as tourist destinations in major U.S. cities. Tourism employs 15,000 people in the Kelowna area, and another 16,500 in Saskatoon. Additionally, a number of large, international companies based in each of these centres rely on trans-border air travel for their own employees and those seeking to do business with them.

Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan aims to build an economy in which Canadians have access to high-quality jobs and Canadian businesses are well-placed to participate in a rapidly evolving and competitive global marketplace.

Quotes

“Our government is laying the foundation for Canadians to become more competitive and succeed in the global economy. Today’s investment in the Saskatoon Airport Authority, partnered with the Kelowna International Airport, builds on our competitive advantages and will result in better access for international travelers to Kelowna and Saskatoon, boosting economic growth and creating good, middle-class jobs for Canadians.”
     –       The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada

“The Okanagan Valley sustains successful diverse communities and outstanding recreational opportunities in Kelownaand the corridor. Kelowna is the largest community and is also often recognized for its innovative entrepreneurs as well as large corporations. The Government of Canada supports the efforts of Kelowna and Saskatoon airports, as they strive to serve the needs of tourism and business sectors effectively.”
     –       Stephen Fuhr, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country

 “We continue to hear from our community about the importance of enhancing our air service connections for economic development, tourism and business. The funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada will support our efforts to sustainably grow connectivity through air service options that are valued by the province of Saskatchewan. We are proud to partner with Kelowna International Airport and would like to thank Western Economic Diversification Canada and the federal Government for supporting Canadian airports in attracting essential air services to our communities.”
     –       Stephen Maybury, President and CEO, Saskatoon Airport Authority

“We’re excited to partner with Western Economic Diversification Canada and Saskatoon Airport to enhance connections for leisure and business travel. Providing access to the United States is a key component of a resilient economy and the investment will give YLW the opportunity to enhance its air service for the benefit of the region and Kelowna residents.”
     –       Mayor Colin Basran, City of Kelowna

Additional Links

Air Canada ending flights from Winnipeg to Saskatoon, Thunder Bay

News provided by Saskatoon StarPhoenix – with a hint from K.W. – Thanks

The airline says the routes were not operating at a level where it made sense to continue flying them, and flights will end March 31.

SASKATOON STARPHOENIX Updated: February 25, 2019

Air Canada is ending flights from Saskatoon to Winnipeg and Thunder Bay on March 31. PETER J THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST

Canada’s largest airline says commercial reasons are behind the decision to end flights between Saskatoon and Winnipeg and Winnipeg and Thunder Bay.

Air Canada confirmed on Monday that it will cease flying the routes on March 31, calling it a “difficult decision.”

“The routes from Winnipeg to Saskatoon and to Thunder Bay regrettably did not perform at a level that would make commercial sense for us to continue operating,” Air Canada spokeswoman Angela Mah said in a statement.

“The factors we look at include demand between the two cities, aircraft availability and overall profitability,” Mah added.

She said anyone booked on one of the affected flights after March 31 will be contacted, either by the airline or their travel agent, to make alternate travel arrangements or obtain a refund.

The Saskatoon Airport Authority, which operates the John G. Diefenbaker International Airport, has said 2018 was its busiest year on record with 1,518,980 passengers, up 3.8 per cent from 2017.

As of last month, the airport had 25 direct routes allowing passengers to reach 245 destinations, the most popular of which are Calgary, Toronto and Edmonton.

WestJet Airlines Ltd., the other major airline that flies out of Saskatoon, offers non-stop flights to Winnipeg from Saskatoon, as well as connecting flights to Thunder Bay.

Air Canada Enhances Service by Deploying Q400 Aircraft to More Western Canada Regional Markets

Provided by Air Canada/CNW

  • Capacity increasing for Vancouver Island, Northern BC, BC Interior, Saskatoon, Winnipeg

MONTREAL, Feb. 14, 2019 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada today announced it will boost capacity on regional routes across Western Canada this spring as it deploys more state-of-the-art Bombardier Q-400 Next Gen aircraft.  The changes are part of an ongoing transformation of Air Canada Express that will result in enhanced services for customers.

“Air Canada is strategically enhancing the flying experience and increasing capacity this summer on key regional routes in Western Canada.  The ultra-quiet, comfortable, fuel efficient and faster Q-400 aircraft will be well-received by our customers and is larger than the regional aircraft it is replacing.  We are pleased to deploy it to more communities in Western Canada as we further strengthen our regional network to optimize all significant connections between our extensive regional and global markets,” said Mark Galardo, Vice President, Network Planning at Air Canada. “With our varied and flexible fleet, we are also adding frequencies to our Vancouver-Anchorage and adding capacity to our Calgary-Winnipeg route with larger Airbus aircraft in response to demand.”

Air Canada Express flights operated by Jazz Aviation LP are scheduled to provide convenient, point-to-point travel, as well as easy connections to Air Canada’s extensive domestic, US and international network at Vancouver and Calgary.  Customers also collect and redeem Aeroplan Miles through Canada’s leading loyalty program when travelling with Air Canada, and eligible customers have access to priority check-in, Maple Leaf Lounges at main airports, priority boarding and other benefits.

Increased services this summer peak compared to last year include:

RouteFrequenciesCapacity
Vancouver-Nanaimo7 daily Q-400 flights546 daily seats, 14% increase
Vancouver-Comox4 daily Q-400 flights312 daily seats, 23% increase
Vancouver-Sandspit2 daily Q-400 flights156 daily seats, 52% increase
Vancouver-Prince Rupert2 daily Q-400 flights156 daily seats, 5% increase
Vancouver-Smithers2 daily Q-400 flights156 daily seats, 14% increase
Vancouver-Kamloops4 daily Q-400 flights312 daily seats, 25% increase
Vancouver-Penticton3 daily Q-400 flights234 daily seats, 17% increase
Calgary-Kelowna3 daily Q-400 flights234 daily seats, 13% increase
Calgary-Saskatoon4 daily Q-400 flights312 daily seats, 7% increase
Calgary-Winnipeg2 daily A320 + 1 daily CR-900 flights368 daily seats, 19% increase
Vancouver-Anchorage1 daily 320 and 1 daily 319 flight266 daily seats, 80% increase

2018 Results in Record Passenger Traffic at SKYXE Saskatoon Airport

News provided by SKYXE with a hint from K.W. – Thanks

29 January 2019 – Saskatoon, SK: 2018 was a year of growth and transformation at Skyxe Saskatoon Airport.   Passenger demand was steady throughout most of the year with 10 months of consecutive growth that yielded a year-end total of 1,518,980 passengers, representing a 3.8% increase over 2017 and our highest passenger traffic ever.

Skyxe strives to ensure that our guests depart on time (within 15 minutes of schedule) for their destination. Through focus and dedication from our staff and airport partners, we ranked #2 in Canada for on-time performance in 2018.

With over 2 million passenger aircraft seats in 2018, air service continues to be of the utmost importance to Skyxe as we continue to focus on our one-stop strategy that provide our guests with access to 245 destinations from Saskatoon. Expanding our 23 direct routes in 2018, WestJet launched new weekly winter service from Saskatoon to Orlando in December, and our most popular, and most served destinations for 2018 were Calgary, Toronto and Edmonton.

Guest satisfaction, passenger experience and service quality remained a strategic priority in 2018, and was measured by our participation in the Airports Council International Airport Service Quality (ASQ) program. Skyxe ranked #3 in airports in Canada for overall satisfaction, and #1 in Canada in the categories of Ambiance and Overall Satisfaction Business.

“Focusing on our vision to be Canada’s most valued airport experience, Skyxe continues to enhance its facilities and operations with projects aligned with our 2040 Airport Master Plan,” says Stephen Maybury, President and CEO of Skyxe Saskatoon Airport. In 2018 we completed a major curbside renovation that now provides an expanded area for public and commercial requirements. Our parking products were enhanced with new technology and expanded to offer a variety of options for our diverse community’s needs including, jetSet (economy), StandardXE (long-term), ExpressXE (short-term), and ValetXE (valet and concierge). Additionally, Saskatoon Airport is proud to welcome the 17th Maple Leaf Air Canada Lounge to its post-security waiting area, as well as our newest restaurant, Urban Acre, and newest concession, LB Distillers, which both opened in late 2018 to enhance our guests’ dining and shopping experience.”

Passengers and crew safe after Delta jet slips off taxiway in Saskatoon

21 December 2018,

News provided by Saskatoon Airport Authority

Delta Airlines flight 4811 bound for Minneapolis slid off a taxiway prior to take-off at approximately 6:15 am. Passengers have been safely returned to the airport terminal. Saskatoon Airport Authority can confirm that no one was injured in the incident.


News provided by 650 CKOM News

Freezing rain caused a near-dangerous incident at Saskatoon’s John G. Diefenbaker airport Friday morning, delaying one dad’s start to his Christmas break in the U.S.



Crews tend a Delta Airlines plane that reportedly slid off the runway at the Saskatoon airport on Dec. 21, 2018. (Submitted by Scott Jenkins) 650 CKOM News

A Delta Airlines plane bound for Minneapolis, Minn. and operated by SkyWest slid off the runway prior to take-off, leaving its passengers stranded.

Scott Jenkins, his wife and two kids were on the first leg of their trip to see family in Kansas City, Mo. The plane, flight DL-4811, was originally slated for a 6:15 a.m. take off.

“You kind of had to look outside to see what actually happened. There was no violent force or anything. It was just you slid, you see a bunch of snow, and you’re like, ‘well we went off the runway,’” he said.

Airport emergency crews responded right away.

“They started shovelling the ditch. I think they were trying to pull the plane out with us in it,” Jenkins said. “Then they decided it wasn’t going to work, so they brought buses out. We unloaded right on the runway, and they brought us back.”

That was at about 8 a.m.

Despite the delay, Jenkins said he’s glad he and his kids are OK.

Officials with the Saskatoon Airport Authority said none of the 74 people on board were injured.

At about 10 a.m., Delta sent an emailed statement about the release.

“While taxiing for departure, SkyWest flight 4811, operating as Delta Connection from Saskatoon, Canada to Minneapolis, partially left the taxiway,” the statement said.

“Customers deplaned normally through the main cabin door and were transported back to the terminal by bus. We are working to help customers safely resume their travels to Minneapolis as quickly as possible.”

The flight’s new departure time is now set for 3 p.m.

West Wind makes sweeping changes almost one year after fatal crash

News provided by Saskatoon StarPhoenix

West Wind’s plan includes a major expansion, beginning with the addition of more flights between Saskatoon and Regina, and the possibility of a fleet expansion

Alex MacPherson, Saskatoon StarPhoenix November 22, 2018

A member of the ground crew personnel readies a West Wind Aviation plane at the Shell Aero Centre for a flight to Saskatoon. DON HEALY / REGINA LEADER-POST

Saskatchewan’s largest airline is making sweeping changes to its organizational structure and operations.

West Wind’s new chief executive officer said the changes are part of an attempt at reinvention after an extremely difficult year.

The plan includes a major expansion, beginning with the addition of more “briefcase and suits” flights between Saskatoon and Regina, and the possibility of a fleet expansion, Michael Rodyniuk said Wednesday.

It also includes “wholesale” changes in the airline’s Saskatoon offices. Multiple executives have “departed” and three new ones — including a veteran military pilot — have been installed, said Rodyniuk, who took over as CEO last month.

“Our expectation is the excellence established at the airline by the founders is exactly what we’re going to go back to,” said Rodyniuk, who came to the Saskatoon-based airline group from his previous role as head of Ontario’s Wasaya Airways.

“This is exactly what (the board) asked us to do: Fix the operations, ensure that the core of our business is solid. So I’ve got a three-step plan basically: Solidify the base, fortify the base and then we’re going to expand.”

West Wind’s fleet of regional airliners spent almost half of last year on the ground after the company’s air operator certificate was suspended following a fatal crash near the Fond du Lac airport late last year. The certificate was reinstated in May.

All 25 people on board were injured in the Dec. 13 crash; 19-year-old Arson Fern Jr. died two weeks later. The Transportation Safety Board has not issued its final report, but the agency has made clear the aircraft took off “contaminated” with ice.

Rodyniuk said one of the first things he did after taking over as the airline’s chief executive officer was to meet with victims of the crash for “heart-wrenching” conversations.

“It’s awful; it’s absolutely awful. That alone gives us the motivation to ensure that we are the safest airline that we possibly can be. This airline is radically different from what it was just a month ago, and compared to a year ago it’s a very different environment,” he said.

Attempts to reach Fern’s parents were unsuccessful but Sabrina Fern, whose now-17-year-old son Lyman was aboard the plane, said she was impressed by Rodyniuk’s commitment to the community where air travel is a necessity rather than a luxury.

Rodyniuk, she said, has been more supportive than previous West Wind executives, and was quick to share his personal contact information with survivors and their families at a dinner this fall. She recalled him saying, “I’m a call away, whatever you guys need.”

“That’s that attitude that we need from people like him, who we depend on for our flights in and out of our community,” she said.

Now, the Calgary-born airline executive is overseeing the early stages of an expansion that he hopes will see the 35-year-old airline become a viable and visible alternative for business commuters, reaching destinations in Alberta, Manitoba and the U.S.

This week, the company began flying its 19-seat Beechcraft 1900Ds three times daily, five days a week between Saskatoon and Regina. Previously, the airline flew the route twice a day, three times week. The demand “seems to be there,” Rodyniuk said.

“We’ve got seven Beech 1900s, and our fleet right now is under-utilized,” he said, referring to excess capacity stemming from a slowdown in charter flights to uranium facilities in the province’s far north, three of which have been temporarily closed in recent years.

“What I want to do is put the fleet to work and start new initiatives, not just between Regina and Saskatoon,” he said, adding that West Wind could in the coming years fly to points “north, south, east and west” of Saskatchewan.

West Wind currently flies only in Saskatchewan, to communities such as Prince Albert, La Ronge, Fond du Lac and Uranium City.

The airline is also looking at purchasing, through its subsidiary Transwest Air, additional Saab 340s, which Rodyniuk said can be converted to carry extra cargo in addition to passengers, to meet growing demand for fresh food deliveries in remote communities.

While there are challenges — chief among them “unmanageable” items such as volatile fuel prices and the pilot retention difficulties facing all regional carriers — Rodyniuk said he is optimistic about the business’s newly filed flight plan.

“We’ll be looking for those opportunities and putting the aircraft, the assets, right where we need them to get the greatest return.”

amacpherson@postmedia.com  twitter.com/macphersona