A new flight between Montreal and Kelowna is expected to boost the Okanagan’s tourism sector.
Kelowna International Airport director Sam Samaddar told Global News that the idea was pitched two years ago to Air Canada, prior to the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the travel world.
“Since (the pandemic), we’ve lost 85 per cent to 90 per cent of our business, so this is great news in terms of rebuilding the economy through Canada, but also for the Okanagan,” said Samaddar.
Big White Ski Resort near Kelowna also cheered the announcement, with resort senior vice-president Michael J. Ballingall stating it’s big news.
“We all know the impact the Toronto-Kelowna non-stop has on our communities,” Ballingall said in an email. “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 (the flights stay) at least one day a week come winter.”
In other news, Kelowna International Airport didn’t make a list of Canadian airports that are technically deemed to have international status.
Transport Canada, in an advisory posted in late January, only gave the term ‘international’ to 13 airports across the nation.
In 2019, Kelowna had the 10th busiest airport in the country, with just over 2 million passengers flying in and out of the Central Okanagan.
However, staff at YLW say there’s nothing to worry about, that they will be applying to have the international term applied to B.C.’s second-busiest airport.
In its advisory, Transport Canada says having an international tag comes with the expectation of a minimum level of services such as customs, immigration and border services.
“In addition, there is an expectation of the types of facilities and level of service available, in order to process passengers and cargo in an efficient and expeditious manner,” said Transport Canada.
“All of these services are typically provided at an official port of entry to a country.”
The international designation – stemming from an aviation organization called ICAO — will help out-of-country officials realize which airports have those services.
“Transport Canada is starting to align with ICAO requirements on all areas of airports,” said Phillip Elchitz, senior manager of airport operations at YLW.
“So, really, the ICAO definition outlines the minimum services for an airport designated to be international.”
Elchitz says YLW meets ICAO requirements and will be applying to have Kelowna technically tagged as an international airport. Transport Canada’s deadline date is June 30.
In the meantime, YLW will be keeping international in its name.
“We’ve been operating as an international airport for a long, long time,” said Elchitz. “We receive flights from all over the world direct, and we will continue to do so.
“We will be submitting the paperwork prior to the June deadline to obtain the (international) designation.”
Below is a list of airports that retained their international status:
- CYVR – Vancouver International
- CYYC – YYC Calgary International
- CYEG – Edmonton International
- CYWG – Winnipeg / James Armstrong Richardson International
- CYYZ – Toronto / Lester B. Pearson International
- CYOW – Ottawa / Macdonald-Cartier International
- CYUL – Montreal / Pierre Elliott Trudeau International
- CYQB – Québec / Jean Lesage International
- CYFC – Fredericton International
- CYQM – Moncton / Greater Moncton Romeo Leblanc International
- CYHZ – Halifax / Stanfield International
- CYQX – Gander International
- CYYT – St. John’s International
Notably, YLW’s 2.03 million passengers in 2019 was a drop of 1.3 per cent from the number of passengers it saw in 2018. The airport said the slight decline was due to the grounding of Boeing’s 737 Max planes.
“Even over the period of the pandemic, we performed better than a lot of airports in the country,” said Samaddar.
He noted that “we’re getting signs, both from the federal government as well as the provincial government that, at least domestically, that they’re willing to start to lift those restrictions.”