WestJet is reducing the number of flights it schedules in and out of Brandon's airport.
Regular air service from Calgary to Brandon will be cut down to 11 flights per week from the current 14 flights per week as of Feb. 15, according to a notice posted on the Brandon airport's website late Wednesday afternoon.
The announcement came just four days after a second flight to Calgary from the Wheat City took off, doubling air service between the two cities from the previous seven flights per week.
The airline blames the reduction on the downturn in the economy and less demand for travel associated with southwestern Manitoba's oil and gas sector.
The cut in service affects the new early morning flight to Calgary with a late evening return to Brandon, which will now only be available four days per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday). The midday flights currently running seven days per week to and from Brandon aren't affected by the changes.
"We do appreciate that this is unfortunate news for our guests in Brandon," WestJet spokesperson Lauren Stewart said in an emailed statement. "We will continue to evaluate the situation and make changes as necessary."
Airline representatives won't say whether there's a plan to ramp up service again if the energy sector improves.
More than 20 communities were affected by scheduling changes by WestJet, according to the Brandon Municipal Airport.
Chamber president surprised by reduction
Jordan Ludwig, president of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, said he was surprised when he first heard news of the move.
"I was quite surprised," he said. "You know for being in business I was a little bit surprised that they haven't given it more of a chance."
However, Ludwig said he does understand that WestJet has been accepting bookings for the new flight for about six months.
"I think it just needs a little time just for people to realize the benefit of those flights," Ludwig said. "Being able to get into Calgary and off to your destination or back to Brandon in one single day."
Ludwig said those flying somewhere in the near future should make flying out of Brandon a first choice as local support for the route is critical.
WestJet first launched daily service between Calgary and Brandon in September 2013.