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WestJet celebrates 25th anniversary at Abbotsford International Airport

First commercial air service out of YXX began June 18, 1997

WestJet is celebrating its 25th anniversary at Abbotsford International Airport, having taken its inaugural flight on June 18, 1997.

At the time that the airline started in Abbotsford, there was no major commercial air service at YXX.

Only Airspeed Aviation had been operating flights – from the airport to Victoria – since 1986 out of a trailer near the Conair hangars.

The airport had been transferred for $10 (plus GST) to the city from Transport Canada a few months before the WestJet launch.

At the time, Air Canada and Canadian Airlines were operating at Vancouver International Airport. YXX gave WestJet a niche to offer a better value proposition to communities such as Surrey, Coquitlam and Langley.

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The decision to add YXX was made by Bill Lamberton, WestJet’s vice-president of marketing and sales from 1995 to 2003.

He is still in the industry, operating a boutique tour company in Calgary featuring same-day return polar bear tours to Churchill, Manitoba and other unique tours of Canada using Boeing 737s.

An eight-minute video was recorded by a WestJet employee a few days after service launched at YXX of a day trip that WestJet Calgary employees took to Abbotsford.

The flight attendants were dressed up as nuns – apparently a spoof to the 1960s TV series The Flying Nun.

The Calgary employees went around Abbotsford to promote the service, followed by a barbecue.

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Lamberton and Tim Morgan – co-founder and flight first officer who is now launching Enerjet/Lynx – are among those in the video.

Lamberton can be seen walking into the terminal, holding a briefcase and walking over to speak with the YXX WestJet station manager, Lisa.

Also seen in the video are shots of the Tim Hortons at Whatcom Road, Ambassador Travel (RDM Lawyers has since expanded into that lease space), the Dairy Queen Express parking lot (now the BMO high rise), and others.

Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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