An Air North Boeing 737 lands in Nanaimo last summer. The airline has launched weekly regular scheduled passenger service from Vancouver to Whitehorse via Nanaimo, Kelowna, Prince George and Watson Lake, Yukon. (Nicholas Pescod/NEWS BULLETIN)

Air North launches weekly passenger flights from Nanaimo to Vancouver, Kelowna and points north

Passenger service will begin Oct. 31

A Yukon-based airline is about to become a regular sight at the Nanaimo Airport.

Air North announced it will begin operating weekly passenger service from Vancouver to Whitehorse via Nanaimo, Kelowna, Prince George and Watson Lake, Yukon, beginning today, Oct. 31.

The once-a-week flight will operate on Thursdays only, using an older-model Boeing 737.

According to Air North, the Yukon-bound flight will depart Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal at 5:45 a.m. and arrive in Nanaimo at 6:15 a.m. It will then depart Nanaimo at 6:50 a.m. and arrive at Kelowna International Airport at 7:40 a.m., before containing onwards to Prince George, Watson Lake and Whitehorse, where it is expected to arrive at 12:40 p.m.

The Vancouver-bound will depart Whitehorse at 3 p.m. and arrive in Nanaimo at 8:30 p.m. following stops in Watson Lake, Prince George and Kelowna. The flight from Kelowna to Nanaimo departs at 7:40 p.m. and arrives at 8:30 p.m. while the flight to Vancouver from Nanaimo is scheduled to leave at 9 p.m. and arrive at YVR’s south terminal at 9:30 p.m.

Air North’s announcement comes roughly four months after the Yukon-based airline began running weekly charter flights from Nanaimo to Watson Lake. Switching to regular passenger service allows Air North the ability to sell seats to the general public on the route.

Debra Ryan, Air North’s manager of strategic planning and alliances, told the News Bulletin the decision to offer regular passenger service allows Island residents the opportunity to fly non-stop to Kelowna and Vancouver.

“If passengers in Nanaimo are continuing from Vancouver to Kelowna, they will stay on board the flight…” she said. “It saves them from having to take the ferry or flying from Victoria with a stop in Vancouver and driving. I think this will be a great option for people in Nanaimo and the mid-Island.”

Increased mining activity in the Yukon, particularly around Watson Lake, is the driving force behind Air North’s decision to operate charter service and then convert it regular service, according to Ryan. She said there is demand from northern communities for connections to many cities in B.C. as well as a desire from the business community in Nanaimo.

“There is a fair bit of support for it and we’re pleased to be able to start the service,” Ryan said.

Switching to passenger service helps lower costs for the airline and will make it easier for leisure travellers to visit the Yukon, Ryan said.

“This time of the year is fantastic for aurora viewing, from the end of August right up until April,” she said, adding “There are incredible year-round activities here in the Yukon for people to experience.”

Ryan said Air North allows passengers to check two bags for free and there will be meal service onboard the flight. She also said a one-way non-stop ticket from Nanaimo to Kelowna in mid-November is going for around $160 while a one-way flight to Whitehorse around the same time is $260. 
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