In 2006 Condor Airlines threatened to cut its service to the Yukon if the territory didn’t expand its airport to accommodate German tourists flying on to Alaska.
Four years later, the government delivered with $16 million in renovations to build a new lounge, a 230 passenger holding area and a baggage terminal.
But now, the company doesn’t need the expansion.
Last week, Condor announced it will no longer route flights through Whitehorse and on to Alaska.
The renovations were needed because of US security restrictions that require passengers landing in Canada to be searched before entering the States.
Condor’s twice-weekly flights to the Yukon will now be replaced with one direct flight to Whitehorse and another to Anchorage.
Even so the government maintains the expansion was worth it.
The renovated areas will be used even if Condor airlines will no longer fly from Whitehorse to Anchorage, said Yukon Tourism director Pierre Germain.
Condor changed it service so that travellers wouldn’t have to “deal with the hassle of going through US immigration,” said Condor’s planning and international relations head Herwig Oberhuber.
The company has long fielded requests from its passengers to create a direct flight, he said.
But it was only when the European Union changed its regulations regarding maximum crew flying time this year that the company decided to change its service.
Almost 60 per cent of Condor’s flights to the Yukon and Alaska had airline personnel flying longer than they were supposed to, said Oberhuber.
“This was the major issue why we changed from the double-drop flights to one non-stop flight,” he said.
The Yukon government never entered into an agreement with the airline when it decided to upgrade the airport, said Germain.
“The trick is that you can’t ever guarantee that an air carrier will stick around,” he said.
The upgrades were needed even if Condor won’t be using them, he added.
“If we didn’t have the improvements we wouldn’t be in the position to look at other (international) carriers. It’s the price of entry into the market.”
The improvements were also required by the Canada Border Services Agency, said Germain.
Swiss airline Edelweiss Air recently announced it wants to fly to Whitehorse and Anchorage, meaning the company will make use of the airport renovations, he said.
The flight will go from Zurich to Whitehorse and continue on to Anchorage.
Edelweiss sales manager Andreas Hobrack isn’t concerned about European Union regulations grounding the flight in Whitehorse.
“We have flexibility with our crew,” he said.
Because the company also flies out of Calgary and Vancouver it has the option to move staff around.
The company hasn’t entered into any agreements with the Yukon government and isn’t planning to, he said.
Edelweiss is still waiting to hear whether it will receive air traffic rights to fly to the Yukon.