Air Canada is launching direct flights three times a week between Yellowknife and Toronto, beginning in early December.
The airline is the second to introduce a direct service between the cities after Air North, which has operated a summer route connecting the two since last year.
Flight AC 1169 will depart Toronto for Yellowknife at 9pm ET on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays, arriving in Yellowknife at 11:54pm MT.
Flight AC 1168 will leave Yellowknife at 12:50am MT (slightly after midnight) on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, landing in Toronto at 7:20am ET.
Flights are “timed for easy connections through our Toronto global hub to elsewhere in eastern Canada, the US, and to winter sun destinations,” said Mark Galardo, Air Canada’s executive vice-president of revenue and network planning.
Serge Corbeil, Air Canada’s director of local and provincial government relations, said the new route’s introduction was “a recognition in response to growing market demand.”
“Today’s announcement marks a significant increase of air transportation options for the Northwest Territories,” said the NWT’s tourism minister, Caroline Wawzonek, in an Air Canada press release. ” We look forward to the positive impact these flights will have in supporting the NWT to conveniently welcome more travellers, businesses and professional organizations to our region.”
While airlines have offered occasional direct flights to Ontario to cope with holiday demand, Air Canada will be the first in recent memory to offer a regular winter service.
The airline said the route will remain year-round, meaning Yellowknife residents may have multiple direct Toronto flights to choose from come the summer of 2024.
Ordinarily, travel between Toronto and Yellowknife requires a day-long procession via Alberta or British Columbia.
The new route was announced at a ceremony in Yellowknife just after 2pm on Friday.
Speaking at the ceremony, Mayor of Yellowknife Rebecca Alty contrasted the announcement with the way her “heart sank” during the pandemic as airlines like Air Canada reduced their level of service. At one point, Air Canada entirely ceased flying to Yellowknife.
“To get the call earlier this week … it is such a big market, not only domestically – there are so many people who live in Toronto, it’s Canadians coming up to visit friends and family, coming up for business conferences – but also the other side of the world, the Caribbean, Mexico,” said Alty.
“Being able to have that quicker, smoother route … is going to increase the number of tourism opportunities in Yellowknife.”
Air Canada said its agreement with Canadian North means customers travelling beyond Yellowknife can use a single ticket from Toronto to any Canadian North destination via Yellowknife, with luggage checked through.
The first flights will begin on December 1, using Airbus A220 aircraft capable of holding 137 people per plane in a mixed business and economy layout.