A new air service between Qualicum Beach and Vancouver will take to the sky for the first time on Monday.
Iskwew Air, founded by Teara Fraser, will start scheduled service next week with four return flights each week.
“This is really exciting for us, these plans have been a long time in the making,” said Fraser.
The service was given a boost recently with a grant from the B.C. Indigenous Tourism Recovery Fund Program, a partnership between the province and Indigenous Tourism B.C. Indigenous companies were able to access up to $45,000 to help deal with the impact of the pandemic. In total, $5 million was granted to 140 Indigenous businesses around the province.
Fraser said the grant helped to keep the lights on, but she believes the new service will be well supported and in high demand. “We know there is lots of demand currently,” she said, noting there is tourism traffic, commuter traffic and a need for another travel option for people who live in the Central Island.
There has been no scheduled service at Qualicum Beach airport since April 2020.
“The town has been working diligently to provide regular airline service to and from Qualicum Beach and we are pleased that Iskwew Air will begin flying out of the Qualicum Beach Airport. They will be a valuable addition to our town,” said Mayor Brian Wiese.
For the time being, the airline will offer one return flight — leaving Qualicum Beach in the morning and returning late afternoon — on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
This is the first scheduled service for Iskwew Air, which had been running charter services out of Vancouver.
Billed as the first airline owned by an Indigenous woman, Iskwew intends to work differently.
Fraser, who is Métis, said there are all kinds of systems that aren’t working anymore, and she suggests diversity might be a means of creating better systems and championing historically excluded groups. “We have an opportunity right now,” she said. “Aviation is in a tough place as a result of COVID. We could just rebuild back. What we envision is to reimagine, rematriate and rebuild an aviation industry that centres on equity and sustainability.”
Fraser said that is why the airline is called Iskwew — a Cree word for woman — as it celebrates the first Indigenous-woman-owned airline, language, women and Indigenous people.
The airline will use one of two twin engine Piper Navajo Chieftain aircraft that can carry up to eight passengers.
• The airline’s website is Iskwew.ca