Kelowna to Montreal flights from Air Canada to start this summer | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna to Montreal flights from Air Canada to start this summer

FILE PHOTO - A Kelowna International Airport employee stands outside of the airport.
March 17, 2021 - 2:00 PM

Okanagan tourism is getting a big boost this summer, pending COVID-19 restrictions, with Air Canada’s decision to launch a new direct flight between Kelowna and Montreal.

Plans for the Air Canada flights have been in the works for the last two years, said Kelowna International Airport director Sam Samaddar.

With the anticipation of health orders and restrictions easing, the service will tentatively begin July 1 and will operate Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, he said.

“It’s really introducing a city-pair that had a tremendous opportunity for our summer and winter market,” he said.

Michael Ballingall, senior vice president at Big White Ski Resort, said in an email that it would have a significant impact, much like the Toronto-Kelowna non-stop.

"In the tourism world, this is huge news. Now, we just need to do the work to fill the seats when the timing is right – and hope it stays at least one day a week come winter,” Ballingall said.

The new flight path means that Kelowna's airport is directly connected with Canada's four major cities: Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal which provides tremendous opportunities for business and tourism as it becomes safe to travel, Samaddar said.

The flight path was put on the back burner because of COVID-19, but “I think we need at some point to (restart) the aviation system and starting it domestically is probably the best way to do this,” he said.

The aviation industry has taken a massive hit during the pandemic as travel both nationally and internationally has been restricted. Kelowna’s airport has seen an 85% decrease in passengers compared to this time last year. In 2019, the airport saw 2 million passengers, in 2020 there was 730,000 and this year the airport is projecting to see around 500,000, Samaddar said.

“Our business has been decimated, there’s no doubt about that and so we’re continuing to face an uphill battle, but that’s why an announcement like this is so big in our market. It’s at least laying down some groundwork on how we can restart the aviation system… and it’s also about building consumer confidence back on getting onboard an airplane,” he said.

Yesterday on the anniversary of Canada's COVID-19 non-essential travel restrictions, Unifor, whose members include those in the aviation industry, held a press conference calling on the federal government to create a national recovery plan for the aviation sector.

READ MORE: Unifor renews call for aviation sector aid on anniversary of travel restrictions

Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, said the scale of layoffs in the aviation industry across Canada were unsustainable and the possibly to travel to remote areas of the country are currently under threat.

WestJet and Air Canada have both cut many routes both domestically and internationally since the start of the pandemic.

- With files from The Canadian Press


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