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Air Canada to fly Kelowna-Montreal

Poutine, Sainte-Catherine Street, cobblestone neighbourhoods, plaza cafes, Mont-Royal, Jean-Talon Market and Notre-Dame Basilica, here we come.

Air Canada announced Wednesday it will start the first-ever flights between Kelowna and Montreal starting Canada Day.

"Announcing a new city pair during a pandemic is incredible," said Kelowna airport director Sam Samaddar.

"It shows Air Canada has confidence in Kelowna and the domestic restart of air service will be this summer as travel restrictions are eased."

</who>Kelowna airport director Sam Samaddar.

The schedule so far is four times weekly (Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday) for the summer.

However, the hope is it will become a year-round service.

Air Canada's website shows the price is currently around $310 each way.

Air Canada will use the new, 137-seat A220-300 jet on the route.

</who>Air Canada will use the new, 137-seat A220-300 jet for Kelowna-Montreal flights.

"It's the perfect-sized plane for Kelowna-Montreal, which we call a long, thin route because the flight is fairly long (at five-and-a-half hours), but the demand doesn't call for a bigger jet," said Samaddar.

As with any new route, the expectation is passenger traffic will be 50-50.

That means half of the demand will be Okanagan people headed to Montreal to explore the city for its French charm and metropolitan feel in a historical setting on the shores of the mighty St. Lawrence River.

</who>Montreal, on the shores of the St. Lawrence River, is known as the Europe of North America for its French-speaking charm, cobblestoned neighbourhoods, chic pavement cafe-style and historic Notre-Dame Basilica.

The other half is anticipated to be Montrealers discovering the Okanagan's golf-ski-wine-lakes-and-beaches tourism offerings.

Big White Ski Resort senior vice-president Michael Ballingall is the biggest proponent of the Kelowna-Montreal connection being year-round.

" I don’t think I have to tell anyone what this means to Big White Ski Resort, the Central Okanagan, the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association region and British Columbia in general," said Ballingall, who is also president of the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association.

"We all know the impact the Toronto-Kelowna non-stop has on our communities. In the tourism world, this is huge news. Now, we just need to do the work to fill the seats when the timing is right – and hope it stays at least one day a week come winter. We all better hire some French-speaking frontline hospitality people and order more eBikes and rental golf sets."

Air Canada currently flies between Kelowna and Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto on reduced schedules because of COVID.

However, as travel restrictions are eased as the pandemic wanes under vaccination, schedules and destinations are expected to be beefed up.

That includes WestJet services from Kelowna to Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Victoria and Toronto.

Due to COVID this winter, Kelowna lost its sunseeking non-stops to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Veradero, Cuba.

However, by next winter, it's hoped those destinations will be back, along with Seattle.

Kelowna airport currently doesn't have 'international' status.

And it has nothing to do with no flights currently crossing borders.

A housekeeping item between the International Civil Aviation Organization and Transport Canada required airports that want to keep or attain 'international' status to put in an additional application.

"Our application will be in shortly and we meet all the criteria, so we will be on that list again," said Samaddar.

It's not just having regularly scheduled flights to other countries that makes an international airport.

It must also have customs-clearing services, instrument landing capabilities and on-site firefighting.

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