Budget airline Lynx Air has quietly stopped serving Kelowna.
Kelowna International Airport director Sam Samaddar says Lynx Air stopped flying into Kelowna once its service was disrupted by wildfires in late August.
"You're seeing a fluctuation, obviously, in flight schedules. Especially with the [ultra low cost carriers], like Flair and Lynx, they tend to move the schedules around quite a bit," Samaddar said, explaining many of Kelowna's tourism industries and business groups in the Okanagan felt the same drop off in business as a result of the wildfires.
Samaddar says YLW set a record for the most number of people using the airport back in 2019 and they now use that as a benchmark to measure against.
He said airport traffic last month was down 5.43% when compared to August 2022 and down 14.18% from August 2019. Year-to-date traffic is up 23.5% over 2022 and down 2.4% from 2019.
Samaddar says in a typical August, YLW handles 187,000 passengers. This year that number dropped to 157,000, but he's hopeful those numbers will bounce back heading into Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"We're hoping to see a gradual return. Hopefully, we haven't scared all our tourists away,"
Despite Lynx Air dropping Kelowna from its schedule, Samaddar says other airlines have added flights in advance of ski season.
"WestJet actually added 9% more capacity in terms of seats into our market. Air Canada has added more frequency to Toronto which is positive for us in wintertime, both in terms of frequency of aircraft and seats, and also added more capacity to Vancouver," says Samaddar.
WestJet has also added a direct Las Vegas to Kelowna route and Samaddar says a surprising number of skiers come to the Okanagan from Las Vegas.
"There's an inbound ski market. We've announced a Nanaimo flight as well and it is already doing very well in terms of load factors, so that's positive. If we look at the overall number of seats that we had a year ago, going into winter, were within 1%. Which is pretty good considering the fluctuation in our industry."