WestJet will begin operating a 78-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 between Nanaimo and Vancouver last this year. (WestJet Photo)

WestJet will begin operating a 78-seat Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 between Nanaimo and Vancouver last this year. (WestJet Photo)

WestJet adds new service between Nanaimo and Vancouver

WestJet is adding a new daily, year-round flights between Nanaimo and Vancouver giving passengers a gateway to the world in as little as 15 minutes.

The service will be operated by WestJet’s fleet of Bombardier Q400 aircraft which has 78 seats.

“The community has been asking for this service for several years, so we are thrilled to make this announcement today,” said Nanaimo Airport Commission chair Lucie Gosselin.

“People who live and work in Ladysmith and elsewhere in Central Vancouver Island gain easier access to a network of non-stop flights across Canada, the US, and sun destinations including Hawaii and Mexico.”

The new daily flight starts Thursday, December 14, 2017. It will arrive at Nanaimo Airport (YCD) at 12:38 p.m. and depart for Vancouver at 1:10 p.m.

Introductory one-way fares from Nanaimo are starting at $105.13, and $115.63 from Vancouver.

Currently, WestJet customers travelling to Vancouver were forced to layover in Calgary before hoping on a connecting flight.

Robert Palmer, spokesperson for WestJet, said the airline’s decision to introduce service to Vancouver is directly a result of increasing demand for air travel from Nanaimo and the mid-Island region.

“This is an opportunity to provide an additional destination option for people who live in and around in Nanaimo,” he said. “We are confident that people will use it.”

Last March WestJet cancelled a direct flight from Nanaimo to Edmonton last march due to the poor economic climate in Alberta.

The airline currently has two daily flights to Calgary, while Air Canada has several daily flights to Calgary and nine daily Air Canada Express flights from Nanaimo to Vancouver.

Canada’s two largest airlines will be promoting flights to the Central Island, in addition to the marketing done by Nanaimo Airport.

YCD hopes the additional flights and promotion will boost tourism in Ladysmith and attract more investment to the region, according the YCD.

“Developing service is key to Nanaimo Airport’s continued growth to ensure safe, reliable transportation for Central Vancouver Island residents,” says Mike Hooper, President and CEO of Nanaimo Airport.

“This announcement is a major indicator of how strongly the Mid-Island region is supporting WestJet Encore service.”

From Vancouver, travellers have direct access to Kelowna, Prince George, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Toronto, as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco, or exotic destinations such as Hawaii.

With direct connections from Vancouver, new markets, customers and jobs can be pursued from a base in Ladysmith.

He said the airline’s focus is growing their three hubs, Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary and that there are more options to destinations in Alberta from Calgary than there are from Edmonton.

“The vast majority of people who are flying to Calgary or Edmonton are connecting beyond those places,” he said. “If people are wanting to go from Nanaimo to Edmonton to Fort McMurray, which as you know many people in the mid-Island do, then we actually have better connectivity options from Calgary than we do from Edmonton.”

Coincidentally, WestJet is awaiting delivery of three Q400 turboprops from Bombardier. Palmer said the airline will receive one plane later this month and two more next year.

Since 2006, passenger volumes at Nanaimo Airport have more than doubled.

To continue providing the safe, affordable and convenient service that has made YCD Ladysmith’s airport of choice, the commission is planning a multi-million-dollar expansion of the air terminal building.

The expansion will enhance customer comfort and provide more space for baggage and security screening.