Air North is adding one more weekly flight each way to its Ottawa route this summer.
Right now, Air North flies from Whitehorse to Ottawa, with a brief stopover in Yellowknife, on Sundays and Thursdays.
The plane goes back the other way on Monday and Friday.
From June 13 until Sept. 16 passengers will now have the additional options of leaving Whitehorse on Tuesdays and Ottawa on Wednesdays.
“The Ottawa route was actually our best performing route last summer,” said Air North president Joe Sparling.
Not wanting to tip his hand to his competitors, Sparling wouldn’t say how many people have been flying to and from Ottawa. The company usually flies a 737 that can fit up to 120 passengers.
“There was an awful lot of full flights last summer, that’s probably the best way to describe it,” he said.
Air North launched the route to Ottawa about three years ago.
“When we launched the route I expected that most of the travel would be business travel, largely government,” Sparling said.
“I was completely surprised to learn that it was anything but government traffic, it was really visiting friends and relatives, it was leisure travel. I think that that’s been the growth in the travel.”
According to the Department of Highways and Public Works, which runs the government’s travel department, in 2015 Yukon government employees flew either into or out of Ottawa on Air North 127 times.
That same year they flew into or out of Ottawa 322 times on Air Canada and 24 times on Westjet.
The department doesn’t track whether Ottawa was an employee’s final destination or a stopover as part of a longer trip.
“I think the Yukon government does a pretty good job of flying with us on all of our routes,” Sparling said.
During the busy summer season Air Canada and Westjet also offer more flights to the territory.
Sparling said adding more options this summer will hopefully mean more people fly with Air North round-trip.
“We know we’re losing some traffic when we only fly twice a week because we do find that people will go one way with us and come back another way because the timing doesn’t work for them.”
Particularly for passengers flying out of Yellowknife, choosing Air North can save significant time over the old option of flying through Edmonton, he said.
“Before we started, a typical trip from Yellowknife to Ottawa took at least 10 hours,” he said.
“I think they were spending as much as $1,000 one way and they’re now flying for a third to half as much, and it’s a three- to four-hour non-stop flight.”
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