Victoria International Airport will likely break all of its passenger-volume records next year, as the airport adds another airline.
Starting May 18, Air North, Yukon’s Airline will fly twice a week between Victoria and Whitehorse. The scheduled service will expand Air North’s route network, which includes Kelowna, Yellowknife, Calgary and Ottawa.
“Yukoners have been telling us for some time that they would like to see a stop in Victoria, and we think that the time is right to test the market by combining a stop in Victoria with our regular twice-weekly Kelowna service,” chief executive Joe Sparling said. “This modification to our routes reinforces our commitment to provide Yukoners with the best possible air-travel network.”
Air North will use a Boeing 737, with a capacity of between 122 and 156 passengers, on the route.
The announcement comes a week after Air Canada Rouge announced it would launch direct seasonal flights between Victoria and Montreal next year.
The Victoria-to-Montreal service will be available from June to October, three times per week.
Geoff Dickson, chief executive of Victoria International, said growth in passenger volume at the airport is about three years ahead of schedule. The airport has recorded 47 consecutive months of record passenger volumes.
“We thought we’d be at two million [passengers annually] by 2021,” he said. The airport will be close to that figure by the end of this year. “It does [tax the infrastructure], but we are staying ahead of it. We are having to accelerate some investments to stay ahead, but we have the capacity to deal with the growth.”
The airport has plans to expand its terminal, runway apron, parking and other services.
“We are always planning to be just ahead of the demand curve,” he said, noting plans to accommodate growth of between three and five per cent each year.
Dickson said early indications are the new Air North service will do well, judging by the popularity of the airline’s charter flights to Victoria. They have always been sold out.
“For the Whitehorse market it’s an opportunity to come and see Victoria, and there’s pent-up demand to come to Victoria. And it’s also a great opportunity for the Victoria market to get out and see the northern lights,” Dickson said.
“The Air North team have done their analysis and they probably see quite an interesting target.”
Paul Nursey, chief executive with Tourism Victoria, said the new flight offers new opportunities.
“We are delighted that Air North is making it easier for people to travel between Whitehorse and Victoria,” he said. “Our destination is known for having the mildest climate in Canada year-round, and we invite northerners to see there is so much more to Victoria than just great weather.
“These flights also offer a great opportunity for Asian travellers, who dream of seeing the northern lights, to add Victoria to their itineraries.”
Initially, the flight schedule will have Air North travelling between Whitehorse and Victoria on Monday and Friday afternoons. The Friday flight is direct to Victoria, while the Monday flight has a brief stop in Kelowna.
The Victoria departures are direct to Whitehorse on Monday, while the Friday flight has a brief stop in Kelowna.