Kelowna's airport is eyeing direct flights to Europe in the future.

Kelowna airport eyeing European routes

Airport administration collecting public input about where travelling public wants to fly in Europe.

YLW wants to be your link to Europe.

Kelowna International Airport, which uses the slogan “Your Link to the World,” in it’s marketing as a nod to its identification letters, is seeking public input about possible future European direct routes.

The airport is asking the travelling public to fill out a survey that asks about where in Europe people here want to fly to, how frequently they would travel, if they have family or business connections in Europe that would make them travel more frequently and where they fly out of now if heading to Europe.

According to airport director Sam Samaddar, with a runway now long enough to handle the large jets needed for direct fights between Kelowna and European airports, it’s time to start building a case for future flights that can be made to potential airline clients.

But, he warned, securing routes anywhere—whether it be in Canada, North America or Europe—can take years. One example is the current Kelowna to San Francisco route, which took five years of lobbying. It was originally Kelowna to Los Angeles but was changed by United last fall to Sand Francisco (Kelonwa’s first choice) because San Francisco is the U.S. airlines West Coast hub.

The now well-established Kelowna to Seattle route, operated by Alaska Airlines, to nearly six years to secure, said Samaddar.

In the case of direct flights to Europe, it could take even longer as larger aircraft are needed to service the routes—planes carrying at least 250 people—and as a result the commitment of an airline would be even greater than an airline flying to West Coast destinations in North America from Kelowna.

But Samaddar said the airport is committed to extending its flight network and is starting the process of gauging the local travelling public’s appetite for European routes.

“When we (extended) the runway in 2008, we said we wanted to develop our intercontinental reach, and that’s what we are doing,” he said.

Kelowna’s airport, the 10th busiest airport in Canada, hit the 1.6 million passenger mark in 2014, a year ahead of schedule. During the recession, when other airports were losing passengers, Kelonwa,inexplicably, saw a slight increase. Since the end of the recession, those numbers have just gotten stronger and 2014 ended with the 24th straight month of record passenger numbers.

While it would be quiet a coup for a medium-sized Western Canadian airport such as Kelowna to secure a direct European route, airport management say they are not only focussing their gaze onthat part of the world.

Samaddar said at the same time, the local airport has three other “thrusts” underway, more interprovincial routes in Canada, trying to get year-round direct flights to Toronto—currently they are seasonal—and securing a direct route to a Mid-Western U.S. major airport to allow better connections to Atlantic coast cities.

To participate in the airport’s European route survey and provide your input, go to YLW’s website: ylw.kelowna.ca or directly to the survey at ylwgoeurope.ca.