January 7, 2016 2:25 am

New Canadian airline could boost Okanagan tourism

Newleaf Travel CEO Jim Young (center) poses with staff from the Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna during the launch of their direct flights between Kelowna and other Canadian cities.

Bryon McLuckie/ Global Okanagan

KELOWNA, B.C. – An ultra low-cost airline has launched direct flights between several Canadian cities, including Kelowna.

“We will bring skiers and summer vacationers on non-stop flights from Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Hamilton,” says Newleaf President and CEO Jim Young at a launch at the Kelowna International Airport Wednesday afternoon.

Ticket sales shut down Newleaf’s website in the morning, as travelers scooped up airline tickets for flights that start next month. The website recovered in the afternoon.

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The Okanagan tourism industry expects more Canadians will take vacations in the valley because of the discounted fares to Kelowna.

“We’re excited,” says Michael J. Ballingall with Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna. “There is no doubt about it that … if you’re anything to do with tourism in the Okanagan Valley, you just upped your budgets. You know this is going to mean more revenue for the Okanagan Valley.”

The no-frills air carrier says it is able to keep costs down by charging for everything else but the seat. Even carry-on baggage will cost $25. A purse or small bag that fits under the seat in front of you will not be an extra charge, says Young.

Pilots will also be able to avoid overnight stays away from home, keeping costs down for Newleaf.

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says the new tourist brought in by Newleaf will create new jobs and boost the overall economy in the Okanagan.

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