Canadian airlines ready to compete on northern route

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Main Street in Whitehorse, Yukon. Airline Westjet has anounced a new Whitehorse to Vancouver flight increasing competition on the route. Photo: Chuck Stoody, The Canadian Press.Air North says it’s ready to go head to head with both of Canada’s largest airlines, but it warns there could be hundreds of Yukon jobs on the line if it loses.

Airline Westjet announced Monday it would offer service between Whitehorse, Yukon and Vancouver, British Columbia with its first flight into Whitehorse arriving on May 17. It is offering one-way fares for less than a hundred dollars.

Air North has responded by discounting some airfares to Vancouver.

The company’s president Joe Sparling says it’s a money-losing proposition for both airlines but he’ll keep it up as long as he can.

“We’ve got to hang on to our traffic it’s just that simple,” said Sparling. “I think we can do that. We’re certainly prepared to continue to be competitive. We’ve been competing with Air Canada for 10 years.

“We absolutely need to be counting on the continued loyal support of our Yukon employees, shareholders and customers and I am confident we are going to get that. We are going to match whatever fares are out there and we count on people continuing to buy their travel with us.”

Increased competition

Air Canada spokesperson Angela Mah says Air Canada isn’t planning to match Westjet’s seat sale prices.

The Yukon government says the real winners will be Yukoners and people travelling to visit the territory.

Denny Kobyashi, Yukon’s senior tourism marketing manager, says the extra competition doesn’t necessarily mean there will be losers among the airlines.

“We can look at the Yellowknife market that is currently served by Westjet, Air Canada, First Air, Canadian North,” said Kobyashi.

“They have four airlines offering scheduled service and they found a way to make that work.”

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