The Regina International Airport can now start seriously shopping potential incentives to airlines after city council agreed to a five-year tax break aimed at securing a daily U.S. hub flight.

YQR has been without consistent, year-round American service since 2016, when Delta Air Lines pulled its flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul, but efforts from the Regina Airport Authority to bring about a return have been ongoing – but nothing is in place yet.

“If we could make a flight happen today, it would already be in place,” said James Bogusz, the president and CEO of the RAA. “What I can say is we spend a huge amount of effort marketing our city.”

Now that push officially has city hall’s support after council voted to approve a five-year tax exemption to the airport on the condition it can secure one of these flights by the end of 2020. If not, the exemption comes to an early end.

Bogusz says this plays a key role in taking the YQR sales pitch to the next level, adding offering incentives helps alleviate the financial risk for the airline, increasing the likelihood one might be interested in a return.

“Having a reduction to our expense line will let us re-invest every dollar of that reduction into helping encourage U.S. hub service back to the Queen City,” Bogusz said. “In addition to that, it’ll help us keep our fees and charges in line for the existing air carriers who already serve our wonderful city.”

The exemption will cost the city more than $300,000 annually in lost tax revenue, but Regina’s mayor says it’s an investment for Regina’s business growth and in bringing more travelers to the city.

“We hear this all the time in the business community and the tourism industry that it’s just harder to get to our city than it should be and ought to be,” Mayor Michael Fougere said after the vote. “Having an airline coming from the U.S. will make it so much easier to conduct business, have people move here, have tourists come here.”

“It’ll make Regina much more attractive than it currently is for investors both within the city and outside the city,” said Regina and District Chamber of Commerce CEO John Hopkins. “The access to the United States is absolutely vital.”

In addition to helping people trying to get to Regina, a hub flight would also make travelling from Regina easier as it would reduce the number of connections needed to get to other major destinations.

The RAA says it’s optimistic a deal can be reached that would see the return of a flight between Regina and an American city like Denver or Minneapolis.