WestJet and Flair airlines bringing new flights to Vancouver Island as summer approaches

WestJet has announced that five new non-stop domestic routes serving Vancouver Island will begin in June as summer flights ramp up in the wake of large-scale vaccination programs.

Flair Airlines is bringing three routes to Victoria to connect with Calgary, Edmonton and Kitchener-Waterloo.

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Rod Hunchak, director of business development at Victoria International Airport, said Friday that Air Canada and WestJet are expected to release their summer schedules soon. “We are expecting that there will be increased flights.”

WestJet’s routes are new, he said, saying the company is taking advantage of optimism that there will be a return to travel amid pent-up demand.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a real boon to the tourism industry here,” he said.

Airports around the world have experienced massive drops in passengers because of fears of spreading the COVID-19 virus and government-imposed restrictions.

Victoria International Airport saw passengers numbers in 2020 slide by 70 per cent from the previous year.

WestJet’s new routes on Vancouver Island, beginning June 24:

• Victoria-Saskatoon: twice weekly on Thursdays and Sundays

• Victoria-Winnipeg: three times per week on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays

• Nanaimo-Edmonton: twice weekly on Fridays an Sundays

• Victoria- Ottawa: once per week on Saturdays

• Toronto-Comox: once per week on Saturdays

These flights are among 11 new routes that WestJet will start in June.

“We are at an inflection point, one that is buoyed by the rollout of vaccines, months of learning how to take appropriate precautions, and a view to Canada’s beautiful summer months that allows us to spend more time outdoors,” said Ed Sims, company president and chief executive.

He said in a statement that he is looking to the summer months with “cautious optimism,” saying that restarting company flights will aid Canada’s economic recovery.

“If Canadians were to shift two-thirds of their planned international-leisure travel spend towards domestic tourism, it would help sustain 150,000 jobs and accelerate recovery by one year, all while seeing what Canada has to offer.”

To date, WestJet has experienced about a 90 per cent reduction in flights and passenger numbers, said Morgan Bell, company spokesperson. “People are keen to reconnect with their friends and family and we just want to be there for them to do that.”

Flair Airlines, which has served Victoria in the past, said it, too, expects tourism and travel to restart in warmer months. It is bringing in 18 domestic destinations nationally beginning in May.

Those will include a route between Victoria and Kitchener-Waterloo, starting July 2 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

A Calgary-Victoria service starts Aug. 1 with flights on Thursdays and Sundays. And an Edmonton-Victoria route begins Aug. 4 with flights on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

cjwilson@timescolonist.com

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