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WestJet is launching new direct flights between Winnipeg and Atlanta starting in September.Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press

WestJet is to start new direct flights between Winnipeg and Atlanta in September with a financial backstop from the Manitoba government.

The five-times-a-week, year-round service is aimed at connecting Winnipeg with a major Delta Air Lines hub and allowing for quick connections to destinations around the globe.

“Manitobans will be able to connect to more than 200 vacation destinations throughout the U.S., the Caribbean, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia,” Premier Heather Stefanson said Thursday.

The direct, three-hour flight may also make for improved trade. Gerry Price, chief executive officer of Price Industries, said the new flights will address long travel times that have been a hurdle for American customers of his manufacturing company.

“We had dozens and dozens and dozens of visits planned to our headquarters for site visits (by) engineers and contractors and owners – to witness, (and) test products that we would build here and ship there – that had to be cancelled because they can’t afford a three-day trip,” Price said.

The first flight to Atlanta is scheduled to depart Winnipeg at 9 a.m. on Sept. 6.

The province is offering a subsidy from a $5-million fund it first promised last year when it helped WestJet launch direct service to Los Angeles. The money is paid out if certain targets, such as passenger volumes, are not met.

So far, no money has been drawn for the Los Angeles service, Stefanson said.

Re-establishing direct flights to major American hubs such as Denver and Chicago, which were cancelled during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, is an ongoing effort, said Dayna Spiring, president of Economic Development Winnipeg.

“You know, airlines have pulled out of Saskatchewan. We need to do everything we can now, as airlines are planning their schedules and figuring out what’s next, to make sure we’re on that map,” Spiring said.

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