A major American airline is paring down its flights to the Okanagan.
Global News has learned that Alaska Airlines will be trimming its Kelowna-to-Seattle route to seasonal service from regular service.
Alaska Airlines, which has been flying into YLW since 1998, offers four to five flights a week to Seattle. But Kelowna International Airport director Sam Samaddar says direct trips from the Okanagan to the Emerald City will now only be available from mid-December to mid-April.
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“We got a little bit of wind of this (Thursday) and I was notified this afternoon,” Samaddar told Global News on Friday. “We had a formal meeting with Alaska (Airlines), where we were advised of their plans.”
According to Samaddar, Alaska was suspending its summer operations due to decreased route demand, along with limited flight crews and aircraft.
He said those crews and aircraft will be repositioned into other markets with higher yields.
In a statement to Global News, Alaska Airlines said: “We made the decision to transition Kelowna, British Columbia, into a seasonal winter destination. We will no longer fly there year-round. Our flights to Kelowna will end in mid-April and resume in mid-December.”
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Constantly touted as one of North America’s best airlines, Alaska said Canada has been slower to recover following the global pandemic. The airline also flies into Vancouver, Victoria, Edmonton and Calgary.
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“Our load factors during the peak summer season to Kelowna were significantly lower than the rest of our system,” said Alaska Airlines. “Flights to that region of B.C. remain very popular during the winter.”
Samaddar says the news reduces direct connectivity to other American airports or tropical destinations.
“Having the network into Seattle certainly was very, very important to our customers in terms of getting into the U.S. in a fast and easy way,” he said.
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“This is going to certainly make it more difficult because you’re going to have to connect through another Canadian airport to then get south. We certainly will have our work cut out for us in terms of working with other airline partners to see if we can fill that void.”
Currently, Samaddar says YLW is at 85 per cent of overall seat capacity when compared to 2019. He says the airport could be at 100 per cent in the second quarter of 2023.
“But you have these drawbacks that occur as well,” said Samaddar, “where you have airlines pulling in and out of the market.”
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In related news, YLW says it’s expecting some flight delays or cancellations because of this weekend’s weather.
“Please check your flight status with your airline before coming to the airport,” YLW said in a tweet.
As of Saturday afternoon, a half dozen flights from Vancouver had been cancelled.
For more information about arrivals and departures at YLW, visit the airport’s website.
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