Integra Air officially took to the skies last week sending its first commercial flights to and from the Bonnyville Regional Airport.
Monday April 13 marked the first commercial flight into Bonnyville with a small Jetstream aircraft landing at 8 a.m. The flight refueled and turned around for a return flight back to Calgary at 8:30 a.m.
“It has gone good. Now we just have to get our ridership up,” said Brent Taylor, a business development manager with Integra Air. “We had five to ten people take local flights over the first two days and have received about 50 bookings over the past week.”
The local airline, which considers itself the hometown airline for Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, will be flying from Bonnyville to Calgary five days a week. Flights will leave Bonnyville at 8:30 a.m. Mon, Tues and Thurs arriving in Calgary for 10 a.m. On Tues, Wed and Thurs there will be an evening flight, which will leave Bonnyville at 5:15 p.m. The Friday flight will depart Bonnyville at 12:30 p.m.
“It's about an hour in the air and we have check in at both ends,” said Taylor. “There is no security, so you can grab a cup of coffee and be on the plane about 15 minutes after you arrive at the airport.”
Officials with the local airline say they have been inundated with calls and information requests ever since word got out about the Integra Air's move into the Lakeland. Many with the small company hope the local interest continues and translates over into ticket sales.
“We will see what happens. We are going to try it out here,” said Taylor. “If we market it right I expect good things to happen.”
Hundreds of local residents came down to the airport on April 15 for a free barbeque, presented by Integra Air. Taylor and several other staff members were present for the event, which they felt was a great way to spread the word of their new service in the region.
“We wanted to welcome the community,” said Taylor. “We really think a regularly scheduled flight will be really beneficial, for not only the local community, but Calgary as well because there is a lot of oil companies flying back and forth.”
Taylor was impressed with the amount of people who showed up for the barbeque feeling it was a good sign that the service is wanted.
“The turnout was awesome. We just had wonderful support,” said Taylor. “Everybody is very excited. We are really happy. We have had a lot of great response and hope it continues to grow.”
Many local politicians from Bonnyville, the MD of Bonnyville and Cold Lake were on hand at the barbeque to talk to the Integra Air officials and take the chance to tour one of the small aircrafts that will be used.
“I think this will be a huge benefit to the community because it opens up doors. It opens up options to go to other communities,” said Reeve Ed Rondeau. “The time to drive to Calgary is too long, so this way you can fly to Calgary and go to events quicker,”
Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski was also excited about a commercial airline coming to the Town.
“I am extremely excited,” said Sobolewski. “They seem to have a wider business plan. They are looking at not only providing service, but also catering to the needs of individuals.”
Along with providing flights to and from Calgary, Integra Air will be offering special packages with golf and ski trips available to resorts in BC and the northern United States.
“I know if there is one issue that crops up time and time again it is the access to destinations and the inconvenience of the Edmonton International Airport,” said Sobolewski. “With this service they are looking to make it very convenient and are offering other excursions and escapes. I find that very refreshing.”