Air North’s inaugural direct flight bridging Whitehorse, Yellowknife and Toronto touched down at Toronto Pearson International Airport on May 10.
The Yukon airline will fly two times a week between the three cities until the end of September.
“It’s a huge help because what it will do is it will help move the dial on the perception that it’s a difficult place to get to,” said Neil Hartling, chair of the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon.
“As soon as you add more than one flight to the destination, people begin to baulk.”
Hartling said the “Golden Triangle of southern Ontario” is a “very strong market” for the Yukon to dip into.
In a press release, Air North is boasting that the new flight path “unlocks unprecedented opportunities for more people than ever before to explore” and “immerse themselves in the cultures of Indigenous Peoples” in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories.
Air North operates a fleet of Boeing 737 jets and ATR 42 turboprops on routes throughout the Yukon and to the Northwest Territories, British Columbia and Alberta, as well as seasonally to Ontario.
Minister of Economic Development and Tourism and Culture Ranj Pillai flew on the airline’s first trip linking the three cities for work and promotional purposes.
Pillai described a period of time when Yukoners were challenged to see their families due to the cost of airfare.
He said the airline provides affordable fares from major cities and the additional access creates a new pathway for people from around the world to visit the territory.
“Essentially, it gives you an opportunity to go anywhere, or for anybody around the world to come to Toronto, and then come to the Yukon, so I think it’s really significant for tourism and for commerce,” he said.
“This is a financial centre for industries like mining and financing.”
Hartling said that while tourism operators are certainly enthused about the new route, he understands that Air North is just “dipping their toes” into the bigger market by hitting up the largest airport in the country, for example, comparing it to the existing Ottawa route that shifted from year-round to seasonal.
“We’re hoping it will grow, and that’s what we want to see,” he said.
Founded in 1977, the airline is 49 per cent owned by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation based in Old Crow, which is primarily only accessible by air and is highly concerned with climate change.
“Yukon’s airline owes our success to key Indigenous and community partnerships, which have allowed us to navigate the many challenges we have encountered during the past 20 years,” Joe Sparling, president and CEO of Air North, said in the release.
“This will broaden education, sports and cultural horizons for youth and facilitate regional economic development. We are proud to make the North a better place to live and work.”
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com