Northwestern Air leaves YLW

Kelowna's airport has lost a flight path after Northwestern Air announced it was ceasing all flights in and out of Red Deer, Alta. including its only Kelowna flight.

The closure of their Red Deer hub means flights to and from Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray and Kelowna will come to an end as of March 2, 2015.

“Our core business is up north, in northern Alberta and into the Northwest Territories...those are solid routes. They work very well, they are profitable for us whereas Red Deer has not been profitable for us for a long time now. Loads going into Kelowna were much lighter than they were in the past,” explains Northwestern Air chief operating officer Jim Heidema.

He says three big factors have played into the decline in profitability for the airline.

“First is the economy. In Alberta, we are facing an $8 billion debt and that has a trickle down affect into business, so that effects our business travellers. Next is that we buy all of our parts to maintain our aircrafts in U.S. dollars and the Canadian dollar has fallen sharply so our parts now cost 30 per cent more. And finally the oil sands, which has affected all kinds of businesses who would, in the past, send people places are now video chatting instead of going,” explains Heidema.

“So all of that has contributed to a very weak passenger load out of Red Deer. We don't have the deep pockets Air Canada or WestJet has so we had to close.”

He says while it is unlikely the airline will be reinstated in Red Deer they are looking at other options in Kelowna.

“We are playing around with the idea of going through Grande Prairie to Kelowna, because there is a lot of traffic going that way, but I am not sure we are going to do that.”

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