Northwestern Air adds Abbotsford

Are you thinking of doing some spring skiing at Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in a few months?

Are you thinking of doing some spring skiing at Whistler Blackcomb Ski Resort in a few months? The trip could start at the Red Deer Airport.

Northwestern Air Lease Ltd. has received Transport Canada approval to extend its existing Red Deer-Kelowna, B.C. route to Abbotsford, B.C.

Brian Harrold, Northwestern’s general manager, said Thursday that his company is working out the logistics of the extension and hopes to be flying to the Lower Mainland city by March.

“That’s kind of our target date at this point,” he said. “We haven’t made an announcement or anything.”

Northwestern currently offers Friday and Sunday service between the Red Deer Airport and Kelowna. Passenger demand has been growing, said Harrold, with a recent seat sale helping to attract more interest.

“From what we’ve seen with the growth on the Red Deer-Kelowna run, it’s looking fairly positive.”

By adding an Abbotsford leg, Northwestern should gain more passengers from Central Alberta and also inter-city travellers between Kelowna and Abbotsford, said Harrold.

He pointed out previously that there are easy transportation links from Abbotsford to Vancouver, which is about 65 km away.

A March startup would ensure spring and summer travellers can take advantage, said Harrold.

“We’re hoping maybe we can pick up on the back end of the skiing.”

Although details of the new service aren’t expected to be finalized until January, it appears likely that Northwestern will increase the frequency of its westbound flights out of Red Deer.

“It looks like we’d add probably at least one more flight on per week to Kelowna, and then continue on to Abbotsford from there,” said Harrold.

The Fort Smith, N.W.T.-based airline plans to station a second Jetstream 32 aircraft and crew in Red Deer to serve as a backup to its existing plane and crew, he said. These would also perform charter work as required.

“Once we get this all set up, we’re looking at having a minimum of two crews in Red Deer and the two airplanes.”

Meanwhile, Northwestern has also received the green light from Transport Canada to fly from Red Deer to Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, B.C. However, the airline likely won’t develop that route until its Abbotsford expansion has been completed, said Harrold.

Northwestern flew between Red Deer and Dawson Creek until September, when it suspended that service.

It has also offered twice-weekly flights between Red Deer and Fort McMurray since Oct. 1.