Air North says its new direct flights between Yellowknife and Vancouver will run for an initial seven-week period in early 2020 to “carefully assess the international tourism market.”
Last week, Cabin Radio first reported the airline’s introduction of the service – which will begin on January 17. On Wednesday, Air North confirmed those flights will last until March 2.
The timing of the seven-week trial – ending at the start of March – means the route won’t be operational for most of what is considered a key month for tourism in Yellowknife.
Snowking’s Winter Festival only opens on February 29, two days before the Vancouver flights will end, while the Long John Jamboree is usually scheduled toward the back end of March. Both are signature Yellowknife attractions.
For most of March, travellers seeking a non-stop flight from Vancouver will once again be reliant on Air Canada, which flies direct year-round from the city.
Air North told Cabin Radio it hopes to significantly expand the dates for its new service in future if the initial trial goes well.
“From a risk tolerance perspective we have chosen to initially load a seven-week period so we can make sure the market will support the new service before extending,” Ben Ryan, Air North’s chief commercial officer, told Cabin Radio.
“It is not so much the local market that we are looking to assess, but rather we want to carefully assess the international tourism market as a lot of the bookings come in through wholesalers, and there may be nuances to working with them that are difficult for us to anticipate.”
Ryan said the airline may yet extend the service into March “to accommodate events in Yellowknife as well as potentially the Arctic Winter Games, which will be held in Whitehorse.”
The Arctic Winter Games, hosted next year by Yukon, are scheduled for March 15-21. Held every two years, the event brings together teams of young athletes from the Canadian territories, Nunavik, Greenland, the Sami people of Scandinavia, the Yamal people of Russia, Alaska, and northern Alberta.
“We will be looking carefully at the events calendar in Yellowknife and considering if some customizations are warranted,” Ryan added.
Air North’s direct Vancouver-Yellowknife flights will operate on Mondays and Fridays, taking around two hours and 30 minutes.
Last week, when the airline first announced the service, the first scheduled flight south on January 17 with a return on January 20 was retailing at a lowest price of $498. The same trip with Air Canada was lowest-priced at $511.