Christmas came early for travellers, following an announcement on Friday morning (Dec. 13) that a direct route to Edmonton has returned to the Kamloops Airport for a trial run.
WestJet’s low-cost subsidiary, Swoop, will begin service next spring and Kamloops Airport manager Ed Ratuski called the news “exciting.”
Beginning at the end of April, Swoop, which launched in 2018, will offer two connections per week through May, three flights per week in June, four flights per week in July and August and three flights per week in September and October.
The end of April through October service is a one-year commitment as Swoop determines viability based on passenger counts.
“It’s mostly for friends and family travel, that’s the target,” Ratuski told KTW. “Swoop wants to open that gateway to the North Thompson and North Okanagan.”
Mayor Ken Christian, who is also chair of the Kamloops Airport Authority, has advocated for the route. In addition to drawing friends and family, he noted the flight will act as a gateway to Icelandair and benefit residents who commute to Alberta for work.
“We’ve seen a faster recovery in Northern Alberta than we have in Southern Alberta,” Christian said in reference to the economy in the Wild Rose Province. “The Edmonton area has really been picking up. There’s lots of jobs for Kamloops residents there and so there’s a lot of people from the city who commute routinely for those jobs. This is just going to make it more convenient and cheaper.”
Kamloops Airport previously had flights to the City of Champions.
Discount airline NewLeaf offered a flight to Edmonton in 2016, but the service was cancelled shortly after launching, That same year, WestJet also cancelled its Kamloops to Edmonton route, citing a downturn in the energy sector.
Ratuski said the Westjet flight to Edmonton had performed well.
Asked what can be done to ensure viability of the Swoop route, Ratuski said the airport will partner with Tourism Kamloops and Tourism Sun Peaks to promote all the region has to offer.
“Part of this is to rebuild that confidence in the market with the airlines and then, if we prove it successful, the community participates, it makes the route more viable for service,” he said.
Christian further stressed the need for the community to fill the seats.
“If we don’t use it, we’ll lose it,” he said.
New flights come to the airport by way of relationship-building, including providing business cases to airlines. Other routes sought after include Kamloops-Victoria and Kamloops-Seattle. Ratuski said he is also awaiting word on whether Air Canada’s low-cost subsidiary, Rouge, will return next year with its direct service to Toronto.
It began in 2018 with three flights per week between June and September. In 2019, the service was reduced to one flight per week in July and August.
On Friday, Swoop announced other new flights across the country involving airports from Abbotsford to Winnipeg, in addition to more international flights.
“In only 18 months, Swoop has experienced significant growth and we are excited to continue this momentum with the release of our 2020 summer schedule,” Swoop president Steven Greenway said in a press release.
Swoop flights can be booked here.