Island Express Air is launching new daily flights from Qualicum Beach to Victoria, Boundary Bay and Abbotsford — and the Abbotsford-based airline also hopes to be flying to Bellingham, Wash., within a year.
The new Qualicum Beach service starts Monday, March 5, with two flights per day, morning and afternoon, with plans to expand the service further as time goes on. Flights from Qualicum Beach will depart at 8:15 a.m., with a return flight landing at about 5:30 p.m.
“We’ve been getting a lot of requests for this,” Island Express Air president Gerry Visser said in an interview. “This means that people can fly from Qualicum Beach to Victoria, Abbotsford and the whole Surrey/White Rock area by using Boundary Bay Airport.”
Visser said that passengers travelling from Qualicum Beach to either Victoria or Abbotsford will no longer have to travel through Vancouver, avoiding the sometimes lengthy delays this causes.
Connecting flights in Abbotsford are often much faster and easier than those at Vancouver International Airport, and “passengers will save on airport fees as well as Abbotsford (CYXX) has some of the lowest airport fees in the country,” the company said in a news release.
“Also, passengers continuing on to other destinations across Canada and the US can connect to these flights via Abbotsford which offers scheduled flights from other carriers including WestJet, Air Canada, New Leaf (Flair) and the all-new economy service recently launched by West Jet’s economy carrier, Swoop Airlines.”
Qualicum Beach’s director of engineering, utilities and airport, Bob Weir, said that, though Island Express Air approached the town with the idea, “(the town) is looking to introduce new services to the airport; principally Victoria and Abbotsford for the various connections to other WestJet and Air Canada flights.”
“I think we’re seeing an increase in long-term parking out there (at Qualicum Beach Airport). I think people are choosing to make their connections to places like YVR to go international or other places rather than take the ferry and the gruelling trip and expensive parking at YVR,” said Weir.
“We’re just hoping that they do not cause us any noise abatement issues and we can provide extra services to the public.”
Island Express Air began with one aircraft and flights to Victoria and Nanaimo just under a decade ago. It now has 10 aircraft, including six Navajos, two turbine-powered King Airs and two single-engine aircraft.
In addition to acquiring more aircraft, Island Express Air has built a new, 10,000 square-foot maintenance and administrative hangar at the Abbotsford Airport.
“(Our) company’s rapid growth can be attributed to providing safe, reliable service and treating their passengers with the respect they deserve,” it said.
The company is also setting its sights on Bellingham, intending to offer flights there within a year.
“We’ve been working on it for a couple of years,” Visser told Black Press Media, adding that the licensing is now in place. “Our goal is to get it running within a year.”
“This will allow Vancouver Island residents to easily and economically connect to the lower priced flights offered by other carriers departing Bellingham,” the company said in its new release.
Flight times, pricing and general information is on Island Express Air’s website at islandexpressair.com, and passengers who prefer to book by phone can still do so during business hours toll-free at 1-888-856-6260, Visser said.
“We do have very easy online booking,” Visser said. “You can book your flights on a cell phone (or computer) if you want.
“If you prefer to book by phone, just call – we’re happy to assist you by booking on phone,” he said.
— Black Press