New Calgary runway officially open

The newest, longest runway in Canada officially opened in Calgary Saturday.

Westjet flight arriving from St. John's, Nfld., was 1st plane to use the runway

A WestJet flight from St. John's, Nfld., was the first to use the new Calgary runway when it opened Saturday after three years of construction. (CBC)

The newest, longest runway in Canada officially opened in Calgary Saturday.

After three years of construction and a $620-million price tag, the new runway is being touted as an investment in the city's future — one that will let it handle more direct flights from destinations around the world.

"Calgary making the investment in the runway they've got will ensure we will be players not just this year, [but] for the next 70, 80, 100 years," said Rick Erickson, an airline analyst. "What that's going to do for us in Calgary is allow us to stay at the forefront of civil aviation not just in Alberta but in western North America."

Erickson says Calgary is in competition with airports in Vancouver, Seattle, Salt Lake City and Denver to become a hub for transatlantic and transpacific travel.

The new runway means 30 per cent more flights will be able to take off and land in Calgary, from 64 flights an hour to 88.

The first plane on the runway was a WestJet arrival from St.John's, Nfld., while the second was an Air Canada flight departing for Tokyo.