People check out one of the Kenmore Air Express planes that will fly in and out of the Nanaimo Airport

People check out one of the Kenmore Air Express planes that will fly in and out of the Nanaimo Airport

Nanaimo will offer flights to Seattle and beyond

The Nanaimo Airport and Kenmore Air announced new twice-daily service between Nanaimo and Seattle, starting March 3.

There was popcorn, hot dogs, Wii baseball and a real party atmosphere at the Nanaimo Airport on Jan. 14 when the airport announced new Kenmore Air service between Nanaimo and Seattle in a sports-themed celebration in the arrivals gate.

Attracting a carrier to provide service to the Pacific Northwest has been a long-term goal of the Nanaimo Airport.

“This new route allows our gateway to expand and better service the region,” said Mike Hooper, president and CEO of Nanaimo Airport.

Kenmore Air has been serving Nanaimo for about 50 years with seaplane service, and Todd Banks, the president and general manager, is excited to extend that service.

“We’re thrilled to be working in the Nanaimo community,” he said. “It’s been a great business we’ve had with Nanaimo over the years. We’re just real excited about the positive things happening in Nanaimo.”

“I know it’s going to be a long-term relationship that will keep growing,” added Hooper.

Beginning March 3, Kenmore Air will offer non-stop direct flights between Nanaimo and Seattle. Twice-daily service will be operated using all-weather Caravan and Chieftain wheeled aircraft.

Flights will land at Boeing Field, which is just south of downtown Seattle, and Kenmore Air provides a free ground shuttle service to Sea-Tac Airport, which takes about 15 minutes. South-bound passengers will clear Customs and Immigration at Boeing Field, while north-bound passengers will clear customs once they arrive in Nanaimo.

“You can leave Nanaimo in the morning and be home in time for dinner, so a day trip to Seattle is a possibility now where it never used to be before,” said Craig O’Neill, Kenmore Air’s director of flight administration. “We’re also touting Seattle and beyond; we hope our service will be viewed by the Central Island citizens as the gateway to the whole U.S. air transportation system. We fly into Boeing Field, which is just south of downtown Seattle. It’s a great little airport, and we enjoy really good service there. We also know a lot of you want to go on to Sea-Tac and get onto the bigger airlines to sun destinations or business meetings around the country or wherever you want to go, so we accommodate that with a complimentary shuttle service.”

Troy DeFrank with the Canadian Consulate in Seattle noted that B.C. and Washington State have a very strong partnership — economically, culturally and politically.

“They’re really good friends,” he said. “We all know Canada is kind of dependent on international trade, as the Northwest is as well. We’re talking $1.9 billion per day between Canada and the U.S. Between Canada and Washington State, it’s about $22 billion per year. Washington State’s the biggest export market for B.C. goods.”

DeFrank also noted that Washington State is the third most popular destination for Canadians travelling to the U.S., with 2.9 million visits in 2012.

“This new year-round scheduled service will open up new possibilities for folks in our catchment area,” noted Russ Burke, chair of the Nanaimo Airport Commission board. “We’ve long heard the desire for access to the U.S. air system, which Kenmore is now going to provide.”

In his speech, Burke acknowledged the work of Nanaimo Airport staff and board members, and he thanked Nanaimo Regional District chair Joe Stanhope, Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan and MP James Lunney for their support over the years.

“The financial support from the provincial and federal governments allowed us to greatly enhance our reliability, extend the runway and improve the terminal building,” he said. “As a result, traffic at the airport is up 20 per cent over last year, allowing us to seek new airlines and new routes to service our area.”

Ladysmith Chamber of Commerce president Rob Waters was at the announcement, and he hailed it as all positive.

“I think it’s exciting they’ve decided to come in and use this airport to open up avenues for our area,” he said. “It’s going to be a great add-on. I’m just delighted.”

About two years ago, Waters wrote a letter supporting the concept of Kenmore Air servicing Nanaimo, as he has used the air service many times through his company, Oak Bay Marine Group and has many good things to say about Kenmore.

Flights are available for booking now through Kenmore Air’s website.