WestJet Enters Sarasota, Orlando

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) — Capitalizing on growing interest from Canadian travelers, Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport and Orlando International Airport are both adding WestJet to their roster of international airlines. WestJet will offer flights from SRQ to Toronto while Orlando will feature service to Vancouver.

WestJet, a popular Canadian discount carrier begins seasonal, twice weekly flights between the two airports starting Dec. 18. They join Air Canada as one of two Canadian carriers flying between Ontario capital and the Bradenton-Sarasota area.

The Bradenton Herald reports that the airport and the convention and visitors bureaus in Manatee and Sarasota counties assembled an incentive package to help cement the deal. Over the next two years, the airport will give WestJet $125,000 in marketing funds to promote the new route. The visitors bureaus will pay $100,000. Flights will be priced at $205 Canadian each way.

The first nonstop flights between Vancouver and Orlando International Airport  start at the beginning of next year.

Officials with Orlando International Airport said Monday that WestJet flights between the two cities start in 2016 once a week. The flights will be in the winter months.

Vancouver was the largest city in North American without direct flights to Orlando International Airport.

Airport officials had been trying to change that for several years given that Canada is the Orlando airport’s second-largest market for international travelers, ranking only behind the United Kingdom.

About 1.3 million Canadian visitors pass through the Orlando airport each year.

Airport officials also say direct flights between Vancouver and Orlando will open central Florida up to more Asian tourists, given Vancouver’s extensive network of Asian flights.