Fort McMurray — Flair Airlines is offering flights from five Canadian cities to Tucson, Ariz. next winter. Three of those routes will fly out of Alberta from Edmonton, Fort McMurray, and Lethbridge. The remaining two departures will be in Windsor, Ont. and Prince George, B.C.
Garth Lund, the chief commercial officer for the Edmonton-based airline, said during a Tuesday morning press conference that the Canadian locations were picked because they are considered “underserved” by the airline industry.
“This is a great opportunity for Tucson to build tourism, build its profile in Canada and it is a fantastic destination,” he said. “The Tucson brand is perhaps a little less well-known than other places, but the sunshine, the resorts, the golf, the hiking — it has so many great things to offer.”
Tucson was chosen as a sunny destination for Canadian tourists escaping the winter. The airline has partnered with Visit Tucson to promote the area to Canadians, whom Lund acknowledged may not be familiar with southern Arizona.
Aside from Edmonton, the other four Canadian cities do not have direct flights to warmer locations. Travellers in Fort McMurray, Prince George and Lethbridge have no direct international routes, despite being capable of hosting international flights.
On both sides of the border, the airports involved in the partnership are eager to add new destinations as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The main challenge is convincing people to travel those routes, which Visit Tucson and participating airports will be promoting to Canadians.
“There is tremendous added economic potential for Southern Arizonans and Canadians to develop new connections and relationships,” said Danette Bewley, president and CEO of the Tucson Airport Authority, in a statement.
RJ Steenstra, CEO of the Fort McMurray Airport Authority and chair of the Canadian Airports Council, said in an interview that economic recovery at Canada’s airports will be different in each city.
Airports in tourism destinations, such as Abbotsford and Kelowna, are expected to reach or exceed pre-pandemic travel this summer. Airports that are more prone to business travel will have a slower recovery.
“We’re optimistic about what the forward-looking capacity and what demand looks like for travel in Canada and to Canada,” Steenstra said in an interview from Tucson. “The province, as a whole, will come back fairly quickly in terms of capacity and people travelling … we’re certainly seeing the trend upwards.”