An Air North arrives in Whitehorse in 2016. Air North is returning service to Watson Lake thanks to a flight that began as a charter route for Coeur Mining’s workforce. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

New stops for Air North

Airline addes Watson Lake, Prince George, Nanaimo to destinations list

A private charter route Air North has been providing for months to Coeur Mining’s workforce at the Silvertip mine began welcoming public passengers on Oct. 31.

Departing from Vancouver’s south terminal at 5:45 a.m. every Thursday, stops are made in Nanaimo, Kelowna and Prince George in B.C., then Watson Lake in the Yukon before arriving at the final destination in Whitehorse at 12:40 p.m.

A southbound route with stops in the same communities departs Whitehorse at 3 p.m. on Thursday, arriving at its final destination in Vancouver at 9:30 p.m.

Air North spokesperson Deb Ryan said Oct. 31 that the flight was en route from Vancouver and making its scheduled landings and departures on time.

“All looks good,” she said. “There are lots of happy people.”

The public can buy tickets with the weekly route now part of Air North’s regular system but the bulk of passengers will continue to be mine workers, Ryan said.

“This is an exciting opportunity to connect our communities,” she said, pointing out the route represents the most connections the territory has had in and out of B.C. It is also the only form of public transportation currently between Watson Lake and Whitehorse.

“There’s never been so many options,” she said of getting to communities in B.C.

She highlighted the opportunities the route will mean for Yukoners wanting to visit family and friends in Prince George, Nanaimo or other stops and for Yukon students attending school in B.C. The University of Northern British Columbia is in Prince George, University of British Columbia Okanagan Campus is in Kelowna and Vancouver Island University is in Nanaimo.

The additional route has also meant five new Air North hires in Watson Lake for check-in and ramp services, equipment parking, cargo and other duties. Air North has established a partnership with First Kaska, the Development Corporation of the Liard First Nation, to support its operations and business development in the area.

“This will reduce travel costs for our charter customer, provide enhanced travel opportunities for Yukoners and visitors, and help us to keep our airfares affordable by absorbing some of our overhead expenses,” Air North president and CEO Joe Sparling said in a statement.

“Just like our partnership with Victoria Gold with respect to our scheduled service to Mayo, this partnership with Coeur Silvertip provides a great illustration of the broad benefits that can accrue from increased activity in our mining sector and strategic partnerships between mining companies and local businesses as well as with First Nations.”

No alcohol will be served on this route. Ryan pointed out alcohol is not offered on any Air North flights before 11 a.m. and with many of the connections being less than an hour between take off and landing, snacks will be limited depending on the time between connections.

She did note Air North will have some favourite offerings on board for the longer portions of the route.

“There will be cookies.”

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

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