Big news for a little town with huge West Coast appeal.
Travellers exploring Canada's West Coast have let out a collective cheer: carrier Orca Airways has added a 15-passenger Beech 99 to its fleet. This is welcome news for visitors, as it reduces flight time from Vancouver (YVR) to Tofino (YAZ) by nearly half. The plane is a twin-engine, unpressurized, turboprop aircraft with a cruising speed of up to 380 kilometers per hour at 10,000 feet.
On Tuesday, September 8 six journalists (myself included) made the quick hop from Vancouver to Tofino. For the size of the aircraft and cloudy conditions, the flight was a breeze. The route from YVR South Terminal (serviced by courtesy shuttles from YVR) was scenic, with descent winding over stunning Barkely Sound and the Broken Group Islands. Clients who are uneasy with small plane transportation may still take pause, but the new model is a comfortable upgrade from the 7-seat Piper Navajo Chieftain. My verdict? I enjoyed it for the reason that this flight blurs the line between air passage and private scenic aerial tour. It also seemed a bit surreal to have two feet in Tofino in less than the time it takes to drive from downtown Vancouver to the ferry terminal.
Three carriers fly scheduled flights into Tofino-Long Beach Airport, but Orca Airways is the #1 recommended carrier by all major resorts and lodges in Tofino and Ucluelet. Furthermore, they're the most reliable airline between Abbosford and Victoria. The addition of the Beechcraft Model 99 brings the fleet size to 22 aircraft.
Destination in brief
Tofino is a premier destination for Canadian travellers and international visitors alike. You may know it as Canada's charismatic surf capital. It's renowned for world class waterfront resorts, a burgeoning culinary community, ecotourism, and wildlife and whale watching. Shrouded in a picturesque natural setting and enveloped by the Pacific Ocean, it's on the itinerary of most who visit southern British Columbia. Perched on the precipitous edge of Vancouver Island's west coast - and the continent for that matter- it's a temperate paradise at land's end. However, accessing it has traditionally been a pain point for travellers. A combination of ferry and driving can amount to six or more hours each way. Now it can take as little as 35 minutes. That should make your clients grin.
Fares & comissionable rates
Fares for Vancouver - Tofino are priced $175-$217.
Orca Airways commissionable fares include Abbotsford/Victoria and Qualicum Beach/Vancouver. 7% of base fare of Fare Saver ticket and 10% on base fare and upgrade charge of Super Flex tickets.
Tofino routes are not currently commissionable but agents can purchase Quick Tickets. They do not expire and can be used for any passenger. A book of 10 Quick tickets provides a minimum 10% discount. Group bookings (5 round-trip or 10 one-way flights) qualify for a group rate, which is 10% off ticket rate.
Improvements to Tofino-Long Beach Airport
YAZ has witnessed growing passenger traffic - a 33% incremental increase in 2015 from 2014 - which has encouraged provincial investment. The airport will benefit from $1.27 million to upgrade its infrastructure. The most exciting improvement? Runway lighting. The B.C. government will fund 75% of the project which will provide a night landing system on the primary airstrip. Increased visibility for landing and the availability of 24 hour air traffic will earn YAZ a class II (middle tier) designation.
Tofino-Long Beach Airport is currently equipped with a small passenger waiting area, washrooms, three airline counters and a car rental operator. A installation of paintings by local artist and long time Tofino resident Mark Hobson adds a local flavour to the space.
Fear not, flying into Tofino doesn't necessarily require renting a car. Those travelling with Orca Airways have access to a large, modern passenger van. For a flat fee passengers are quickly whisked from the airport to the door of their resort. During your clients' holidays they can make use of local shuttles, cycle along the Tofino Bike Path or even rent scooters. Inquire about pick ups and drop offs with excursion operators.
Trip planning tools