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Fly from Kelowna to Europe?

Kelowna has enough passenger traffic to support a flight to Europe, and staff at Kelowna International Airport are getting close to making one happen.

Airport Director Sam Samaddar revealed the information at a Greater Westside Board of Trade luncheon Feb. 22, telling the crowd there is a market for a flight from Kelowna to Europe at least once a week, during peak summer and winter seasons.

“We know that there is a market into Europe. The next piece of it is getting an airline to come and dance with us,” he later told Okanagan Edge.

Samaddar said airport staff have been making the case to airlines like Condor and Westjet, and are getting closer to pinning something down. It’s a long process, made longer by the fact that starting a new route is a very expensive investment for an airline,  but as the region continues to grows the case only gets stronger.

“We know our growth – the population is growing, the [region’s] tourism products are continuing to grow – these are all things that are good to present to an airline to make our case,” Samaddar  said.

A flight connecting Kelowna and Europe is just one of the opportunities YLW is pursuing.

Samaddar also revealed airport staff are in contact with a new discount airline that’s hoping to break into the market.

Jetlines, which is currently raising capital in hopes of a fall 2017 launch, hopes to offer low fare flights throughout Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. Samaddar says YLW are talking with the startup and are “very, very hopeful” they will offer flights out of Kelowna.

Inexpensive air travel would be a boost to the airport, after discount airline NewLeaf recently announced it was dropping the city from its summer schedule.

Samaddar said YLW is pushing to attract flights that connect to major North American hubs like Toronto, Minneapolis and Reykjavik, Iceland.

Securing regular flights to those destinations makes the airport much more attractive because travellers can then get to far-flung locations like South America and Europe with just a single stopover.

To do that, Samaddar said the airport has strived to keep its fees as low as possible. Airlines can go wherever they want, he explained, meaning Kelowna is in constant competition with other airports.

By keeping fees as low as possible YLW hopes to attract those important connecting flights.

“It’s been a cornerstone of what we do, trying to maintain a low-cost airport structure,” he said. “You won’t see us with a fancy tunnel building and all those other things. We try to be very, very cautious … and that keeps our costs in check.”

With the airport among the busiest dozen in the country, and breaking passenger records this year, Samaddar says that appears to be working.

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