Air North staged celebrations in both Vancouver and Yellowknife as its winter route between the two cities opened for the first time last week.
The first flights took place on Friday, and will continue on Fridays and Mondays until March 2. Drummers from the Yellowknives Dene First Nation welcomed the route's first passengers arriving at Yellowknife Airport.
Ben Ryan, Air North's chief commercial officer, said more flights could be added in March. However, the airline needs more Yellowknifers to start taking up the opportunity of a weekend break in Vancouver.
"We picked those days for the local Yellowknife market, so you could go to Vancouver for the weekend, but they also allow three or four-night aurora packages for the inbound tourism market," Ryan told Cabin Radio as passengers stepped off the Yellowknife-bound flight on Friday.
"Our intention is to offer more flights in March and we've added two flights around spring break, having to do with the Arctic Winter Games," said Ryan. "There may be more news about some additional flights in March. Hopefully, beyond that, this goes well and we can do it again next winter.
"There are some gaps in terms of getting Yellowknife people to leave town on Fridays and come back on Mondays, so we've got some work to do in terms of trying to make it attractive to try Vancouver out for a weekend."
Air North's service between Whitehorse, Yellowknife, and Ottawa will resume on May 30, Ryan said, and is currently expected to run until early September. The airline sees Ottawa as its summer mainstay from Yellowknife, with Vancouver set to become the winter equivalent.
"The Yellowknife market is a unique thing where it peaks in the winter in the North. From the standpoint of keeping people employed in the winter and keeping our business strong, operationally, we felt we needed to look for more opportunities to fly in the winter," Ryan said.
"We're still learning a lot about the aurora market. In our minds, something like to December to March is the prime aurora season – and helping locals travel during Christmas and spring break."