YKA launching non-stop flights to Edmonton, seeking to secure links to other cities

YKA looks to expand service

With a new, non-stop service between Fulton Field and Edmonton cleared for takeoff in June, the managing director for Kamloops Airport says YKA has also been "actively pursuing" non-stop flights with a few other cities.

Starting on June 18, Flair Airlines will offer service multiple times per week between Kamloops and Edmonton, locations which haven’t been connected by direct flights since 2016.

Ed Ratuski said YKA officials undertook a lot of work to show Flair Airlines the service between Kamloops and Edmonton was a viable route, adding the low-cost flights could help boost post-pandemic recovery for Kamloops Airport.

"The challenge is, we know the passenger demand is there — everybody's heard about the pent-up travel demand — is making sure that the routes from Kamloops meet that demand," Ratuski said.

"There are some challenges in the market and this will help alleviate some of that pent-up demand for getting people to the destinations they want to get to."

He said the airport is actively pursuing other non-stop flights, including service from the Tournament Capital to Victoria and Toronto — a route that was serviced a number of years ago.

"We are actively pursuing non-stop to Toronto again, that was served a number of years ago with Rouge but again, the data shows with the right aircraft type and the right service that that route is viable," he said.

Ratuski noted Kamloops is the only major centre in the Interior that doesn't currently have a non-stop flight to Victoria.

According to Ratuski, YKA was back up to about 85 to 90 per cent of pre-COVID traffic, noting the Memorial Cup will add to the traveller numbers for what is typically a slower season.

“Then, the busy summer travel picks up, and that's where Flair will enter the market in terms of supporting that leisure travel between here and Alberta,” Ratuski said.

Eric Tanner, vice president of revenue management and network planning for Flair Airlines, said their data shows the Kamloops market can work well for the company.

“Kamloops really fits in our strategy of taking people to where they want to go without a connection. We’ve gone up to multiple flights a day in Edmonton [to] Kelowna, and I think Kamloops has a very similar profile.” Tanner said.

“It has unparalleled outdoors. It's got the skiing, it's got the golf, it's got the water sports, it really kind of has it all.”

Tanner said each route needs to earn its way into the airline’s network, but noted pre-sales have been “solid.”

“You can never make promises on a route. That said, the fundamentals are here. This is a market that we know can work really well,” he said.

When asked if Flair would look at offering other flights to and from YKA, Tanner said the airline is always analyzing new route opportunities across the country, but when it comes to Kamloops, their focus is to first build a link to the City of Champions.

“Right now our focus is really just about making sure that we ramp up this Edmonton service, both for the summer, but then also investing depth into the schedule going forward — can we get this up to a daily service,” Tanner said.

“And then I think we'll certainly be talking to Ed [Ratuski] and Tourism Kamloops about future opportunities, for sure.”

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