British Columbians' long wait for scheduled, non-stop, commercial flights between Vancouver and Turkey is almost over.
Turkish Airlines plans to launch thrice-weekly, direct flights between Istanbul and Vancouver starting May 2, Turkish consul general Taylan Tokmak confirmed to BIV on April 8.
The news comes despite the Canadian government advising Canadians to avoid all non-essential travel outside the country. The B.C. government advises British Columbians to not even leave their home community, unless the travel is essential.
Turkish Airlines had planned to launch the non-stop Istanbul-Vancouver route in June, 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed the flights.
"We believe that it will be a popular route, drawing passengers from Calgary," Tokmak said. "With this connection, B.C. will be linked to 300-plus destinations via the İstanbul hub."
Istanbul Airport opened in 2018, and increased its passenger volume substantially in 2019, after all commercial passenger flights from the older Istanbul Atatürk Airport were shifted to the new airport.
Travel time to countless destinations from Vancouver is likely to shrink thanks to non-stop routes from Istanbul Airport to Iran, Russia and other countries.
Pre-pandemic, a major stumbling block for any airline wanting to fly non-stop between Vancouver and any Turkish city was the air agreement between Canada and Turkey.
That agreement limited domestic carriers to fly to and from a maximum of two cities in each country.
Turkish Airlines already flies to Toronto and Montreal, and did not want to eliminate either route.
The Turkey-Canada air agreement was amended in February, 2020, to allow access to third cities in each country.
BIV reported in October, 2018, that Turkish Airlines posted a notice to the investor relations part of its website saying that it “has decided to start operating scheduled flights, based on market conditions, to Vancouver, Canada.”
The notice was a heads-up to investors, given that slightly more than half of the venture’s shares trade on the Borsa Istanbul stock exchange. The Turkish government holds the remainder.
B.C. exported $151.4 million worth of goods to Turkey in 2018, according to BC Stats. About 81% of that was $123.3 million in coal and solid fuels manufactured from coal.
Canada was the source of approximately 0.4% of imports into Turkey in 2018. Approximately 1.1% of exports from Turkey were destined for Canada in that year, according to BC Stats.
Back in 2016, the Vancouver Turkish Canadian Society (VTCA) launched a petition on Change.org, calling for an airline to launch non-stop Istanbul-Vancouver flights. The petition closed with 1,549 supporters.
Tolga Tosun, who was then president of the VTCA, told BIV in November 2018 that he believes that if non-stop flights between Istanbul and Vancouver launch, they will be packed with people, and business and cultural exchanges will flourish.