Travellers from Vancouver Island will soon have the option of flying directly to Montreal and Toronto, as Air Canada Rouge is launching direct seasonal flights between Victoria and Montreal and between Nanaimo and Toronto.
Both flights will run from June into October.
The Victoria-to-Montreal flight will be available three times per week while the Nanaimo-Toronto flight will be four times per week.
“It speaks volumes to the strength of Victoria as a tourism attraction,” Geoff Dickson, Victoria Airport Authority president and chief executive officer, said Friday. The authority manages Victoria International Airport.
“It speaks to the strength of the overall B.C. economy and the regional economy. It also speaks to the strength of the Montreal market,” Dickson said.
The Victoria airport is one of the fastest growing airports in the country, with 47 consecutive months of record passenger volumes, Dickson said.
“We are confident that the Victoria-Montreal flights will be a success.”
Passengers will fly in a 136-seat Airbus 319 on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Service starts June 22 and runs until Oct. 9.
Flights leave Victoria at 11:05 a.m. to reach Montreal at 6:43 p.m. They will depart Montreal at 7:45 a.m. to arrive in Victoria at 10:17 a.m.
The new flights will add to other existing Air Canada direct daily flights out of Victoria to Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto.
Victoria International Airport is expecting to hit another record high in passenger numbers this year, with Dickson anticipating the total will reach 1.93 million by the end of this month. He’s predicting 2018 will bust another record with more than two million passengers.
“Customers from Vancouver Island will have direct access to even more far-reaching destinations in our global network at our Montreal hub,” said Benjamin Smith, president of passenger airlines at Air Canada.
Victoria-Montreal service is bolstered by Air Canada’s decision to add year-round direct lights between Montreal and Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
“This underscores once again the strategic importance of building our Montreal hub as Air Canada continues its global expansion,” Smith said.
Paul Nursey, Tourism Victoria president and chief executive, was “thrilled” with the upcoming link to Montreal, predicting it will be a success.
“This will open up Quebec, Atlantic Canada, and one-stop service from many places in Europe that we haven’t had access to before. So that is really good on the leisure side.”
These flights will also enhance Tourism Victoria’s work to attract Montreal groups, particularly pharmaceutical companies, to come to Victoria for meetings and conferences, Nursey said. A Tourism Victoria staff member in Ottawa has started to focus on Montreal this year. Tourism Victoria promotes the Victoria Conference Centre.
“There’s a lot of interest in having meetings in Victoria,” he said. “We are just starting to open up that market so the timing couldn’t be better.”
Nanaimo’s direct service to Toronto kicks off June 21 and continues until Oct. 8. Air Canada Rouge will operate Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays using an Airbus 319. It will depart Toronto at 9:30 a.m. and leave Nanaimo at 12:15 p.m. The flights will add to Air Canada’s existing direct service between Nanaimo and Vancouver and Calgary.
Mike Hooper, CEO at Nanaimo Airport, also sees this as opening up Nanaimo and giving passengers the ability to make more connections to global flights out of Toronto. “Adding scheduled service like this reinforces our commitment to being the Central Island’s gateway to the world.”
The Nanaimo-Toronto service will help the leisure and business sectors and help boost the local economy, he said.
This year, more than 355,000 passengers will fly in and out of Nanaimo Airport.