New Air Canada route to start in December, run until April
Fly me to the moon, or at least to B.C., nonstop.
Air Canada announced on Wednesday the airline will be offering direct daily flights between Vancouver and Yellowknife, starting Dec. 15.
With prices starting at $219 one-way, the flights will operate until April 1, 2018, departing Vancouver at 4 p.m. and arriving in Yellowknife at 7:30 p.m., and departing Yellowknife at 7:30 a.m., arriving in Vancouver at 8:53 a.m.
“These new non-stop flights will shave off almost four hours of round-trip travel time for customers travelling between Canada’s west coast and the Northwest Territories,” stated Benjamin Smith, president of passenger airlines at Air Canada in a news release.
He added the flights will connect “seamlessly” with Air Canada flights to Asia.
The sweet sound of the 75-seat Bombardier CRJ-705 aircraft is music to NWT Tourism executive director Cathie Bolstad’s ears. She said by end of day on Wednesday she’d already heard from travel trade partners in Australia, excited by the news.
“When an airline deems they have a viable route to put on, that’s a good sign,” she said.
According to statistics from the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI), the number of tourists arriving to view the aurora rose 48 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, with total visitors to the NWT rising 11 per cent.
Many of these tourists originated from Asia, especially China, Japan and Korea. According to the department, as of Sept. 26, 2016, tourists spent $167.1 million visiting the NWT in 2015/16, with tourists coming to see the aurora shelling out $39.7 million.
Bolstad said a direct flight from Vancouver will only help matters.
“It opens up another avenue for us into a rapidly growing Asian market into Canada, among other markets as well,” she said.
She added the timing of the flights means those arriving to see the aurora will be able to do so their first night in town.
ITI Minister Wally Schumann is also aboard the joy plane.
“Air Canada’s direct route between Yellowknife and Vancouver is great news for the Northwest Territories’ tourism industry and comes just in time for aurora-viewing season,” he stated in a news release.
Airport improvement fees at the Yellowknife airport kicked in on July 1. The fees add a cost of $10 per ticket for flights heading north, and $20 for trips from Yellowknife and go into a revolving fund used to support the airport, including improvements to the terminal itself.
Bolstad said the new flights will keep governmental feet to the fire to improve the airport.
“When you see additional flights coming in, it’s going to put more pressure on them to deal with that.” she said.
Hotels are also getting ready to handle increased tourism numbers — the Explorer Hotel, for instance, is pushing forward with plans for a 72-room expansion, with the development permit applications approved by the city in May.
Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah told Yellowknifer via e-mail that Air Canada will evaluate whether or not to continue the direct flight after April 1, based on “commercial factors,” including local demand and international connections.
Lauren Stewart, a spokesperson for Westjet, told Yellowknifer via e-mail that Westjet is not considering offering a direct flight to Vancouver at this time.
Bolstad didn’t want to speculate about the future, however she is hopeful.
“There’s lots of pluses about this and of course new routes always make competitors look up and take notice,” she said.