New flights to YKA may improve accessibility

The first flight was welcomed with an arch of water from the airport’s fire truck. Photo SPIN.

Budget airline Swoop has announced a new Kamloops to Edmonton, Alta. route for the summer.

It’s one of just a few returning air services that will help promote the accessibility of the region, including Sun Peaks.

The Kamloops to Edmonton route will be offered between April and October on a one year trial by Swoop, a subsidiary of WestJet.

According to Ed Ratuski, managing director of Kamloops Airport (YKA), the route was previously serviced by WestJet and was quite successful, but was suspended in 2016.
“We’re very pleased that it’s coming back with Swoop,” he said.

Ratuski added that if the route proved to be viable, YKA would look to “preserve that market year-round.”

“I think as Sun Peaks develops the area as a summer destination as well, that’s where we can work with the Swoop service,” he continued. “We can really start to promote what Sun Peaks has to offer as well with the different hiking and mountain bike options that they’ve introduced up there.”

Unfortunately a Kamloops-Toronto flight added in 2018 has been cancelled in order for Air Canada to make up routes where they have had to ground the Max 8 and 9 after two crashes last year.

Ratuski stated Toronto is another route YKA would like to see become year-round—a sentiment shared by Tourism Sun Peaks (TSP) president Arlene Schieven.

“Any new routes are welcomed as we work to improve access to Sun Peaks,” she wrote via email. “The Toronto summer route is an excellent addition, but of course we would love to see this route during the winter when we see many more visitors from Ontario.”

“Most of our summer visitors to Sun Peaks come by car so the impacts we would see from additional summer flights are fairly minimal. However, adding non-stop flights from new destinations in the winter would have a significant impact on visitor numbers,” Schieven added. “For the winter traveller, the fewer flights they have to take, the better.”

To this end, TSP has been working with YKA to reinstate a seasonal winter service from Seattle to Kamloops, which was provided by Horizon Air in the past.

The route was discontinued in 2009 due to aircraft availability, Ratuski said, but he added they are pitching for the route to return for the 2020-21 winter season.

YKA already experiences a boost in traffic over winter due to snow seekers.

“The numbers are generally 20 to 25 per cent higher during the winter season and it’s largely due to a flux of ski traffic up to Sun Peaks,” Ratuski said.

In keeping up with these winter crowds, shuttle services from YKA to Sun Peaks have also expanded. Sun Star, Tastefull Excursions, Kamloops Limousine and Sun Peaks Taxi’s shuttle now all offer chartered shuttles to and from YKA for visitors to Sun Peaks.

“Satisfaction with the shuttle service for the airport is very high,” said Schieven.

For more information on air carriers and routes serving the Kamloops area, see kamloopsairport.com.

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