Kelowna’s airport is teaming up with the world’s largest airline to provide daily flights between here and Los Angeles.
At a press conference Tuesday morning at the Kelowna airport, YLW, city and airline officials announced that after five years of negotiations, United Airlines, through its regional service United Express, will start flying between Kelowna International (YLW) and Los Angeles’ LAX airport, the sixth busiest airport in the world, starting in December.
“California is the largest transborder market for Okanagan residents and currently accounts for 28 per cent of the outbound travel to the U.S.,” said YLW director Sam Samaddar.
He added that while the personal travel market is strong, the high-tech industry and the wine industry have also created strong business ties between our two regions.
He said the Los Angeles route has been timed to also maximize connections to and from the southwest United States, Mexico and Latin America.
“This is great news for our community, the Okanagan and B.C.’s Southern Interior,” said Mayor Walter Gray, who also chairs the YLW Airport Advisory Committee.
“Having daily, non-stop flights between Kelowna and Los Angeles will open the doors for both business and holiday travellers.”
United Express will operate one flight per day to start, leaving YLW at 8 a.m. and arriving a LAX at 10.51 a.m. as of Dec. 20. The returning flight will leave LAX at 6:40 p.m. and arrive in Kelowna at 9:44 p.m.
“This will be our largest hub (airport) with the most connections to other destinations,” said Samaddar. “Inbound passengers will find this advantageous as well to help get them here and experience the Okanagan’s four seasons of adventure.”
LAX, in addition to being the sixth busiest airport in the world, is the third busiest in the United States, offering more than 600 daily flights to 91 domestic cities and more than 1,000 weekly nonstop flights to 58 cities in 32 countries on nearly 75 air carriers. In 2011, LAX saw more than 61 million passengers pass through its terminals.
United Airlines, which amalgamated with Continental Airlines last year to become the largest airline in the world, flies to 375 airports in 62 countries.
It is a founding member of the Star Alliance network of airlines that includes Air Canada. It operates a fleet of 702 aircraft.
Gray hailed the introduction of direct flights between Los Angeles and Kelowna, saying it showed United’s confidence in his city and the entire Okanagan.
He said landing new service routes is a very long process and in the case of the deal with United, it took five years of discussions to convince the giant U.S. airline to fly here.
“Our air service development team has built a strong and sustainable business case,” added the mayor.
YLW is the ninth busiest airport in Canada and annually serves 1.4 million passengers. There are currently 64 scheduled flights in and out of the airport with carriers such as Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Westjet, Central Mountain Air, Northwestern Air, as well as charter services by Transat Holidays and Sunwing.
Direct scheduled flights to and from Kelowna go to major North American hub airports such as Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, and Calgary, as well as regional airports in Prince George and Red Deer.
There is also seasonal service to and from Las Vegas, Phoenix and Mexican holiday resort areas Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun.