It’s going to get a little busier at the Nanaimo Airport.
WestJet has announced that they will begin operating daily year-round service from Vancouver International Airport to Nanaimo Airport starting on Dec. 14. The airline also announced daily service from Comox Valley Airport to Vancouver.
The new Nanaimo route will be operated by WestJet Encore, a subsidiary of WestJet, and will be serviced by a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, a 78-seat turboprop. Flights from Vancouver are scheduled to depart at 12:05 p.m. and arrive in Nanaimo at 12:38 p.m. while the flights from Nanaimo will depart at 1:10 p.m. and arrive in Vancouver at 1:37 p.m.
Mike Hooper, the airport’s president and chief executive officer, said WestJet’s announcement is fabulous news.
“We’re delighted that there is a new flight,” he said.
Robert Palmer, spokesperson for WestJet, said the airline’s decision to introduce service to Vancouver is directly a result of increasing demand for air travel from Nanaimo and the mid-Island region.
“This is an opportunity to provide an additional destination option for people who live in and around in Nanaimo,” he said. “We are confident that people will use it.”
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WestJet Encore currently operates two daily flights from Nanaimo to Calgary. Hooper said the addition of a flight to Vancouver means that WestJet customers will no longer be forced to layover in Calgary for their connecting flights.
“The benefit with this one with WestJet going to Vancouver is that it really reduces the travel time for places like Hawaii,” he said.
WestJet currently operates 505 flights per week during the winter season out of Vancouver according to Palmer, who said the new route will also provided mid-Island residents with the ability to connect to other WestJet destinations in the province.
It’s not the first time that the Alberta-based airline has scheduled flights to multiple destinations from the Nanaimo Airport. WestJet once operated flights from Nanaimo to Edmonton, along with its service to Calgary, but cancelled the Edmonton route last March, citing a poor economic climate in Alberta.
Hooper said the load factors on the Edmonton route were good but the route was axed anyways because WestJet decided to move three airplanes to routes in Eastern Canada. He said although the airport has been in regular discussions with WestJet, nothing has been mentioned about restoring the Edmonton route.
“We haven’t talked to them specifically about that, but we would anticipate that there would be a Nanaimo-to-Edmonton flight in the future,” he said.
Palmer said the economic situation in Alberta hasn’t improved enough to justify the return of the Edmonton route anytime soon. He said the airline’s focus is growing their three hubs, Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary and that there are more options to destinations in Alberta from Calgary than there are from Edmonton.
“The vast majority of people who are flying to Calgary or Edmonton are connecting beyond those places,” he said. “If people are wanting to go from Nanaimo to Edmonton to Fort McMurray, which as you know many people in the mid-Island do, then we actually have better connectivity options from Calgary than we do from Edmonton.”
Concidentially, WestJet is awaiting delivery of three Q400 turboprops from Bombardier. Palmer said the airline will receive one plane later this month and two more next year.