WestJet begin non-stop flights to Victoria-Phoenix in November

Non-stop Friday flights between Victoria and Phoenix will run through the winter as the Victoria Airport Authority focuses on building business in the face of declining passenger numbers.Starting in November, rain-soaked capital region residents will be able to escape to warmer temperatures in sunny Arizona on direct service. A one-way ticket sells for $189.After a slight increase in January and February, the total number of revenuepaying passengers slid to 333,469 or by 1.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2011, compared to the same months in 2010 at 337,017.That same category dropped by 3.5 per cent to 367,175 in the second quarter, from 380,364 in that quarter in 2010, according to the Victoria International Airport statistics.I think it is really as much a function of the state of the economy throughout the U.S. and Canada,Geoff Dickson, president and CEO of the Victoria Airport Authority, said Wednesday.

It’s hard for us to see whether it’s business travellers, or vacation travellers, or people visiting friends and relatives.No clear trend for passenger numbers is seen at Canadian airports, he said.Factors affecting this sector can include the exchange rate, uncertainty about the economy, and employers allocating fewer dollars to travel, Dickson said.Despite the recent drop in numbers, the airport handled more than 1.5 million passengers last year, the same number handled in 2009 and 2008. This was an increase from 1.48 million in 2007 and 1.39 million in 2006.

Other revenues comes from restaurants, retail operations, and land development. Ground will be broken in the coming week for the $31-million 150,000square-foot Thrifty Foods distribution centre, he said.The first flight to Phoenix is Nov. 4 and service is expected to run into the spring. Other direct flights go to such destinations as Hawaii, Las Vegas, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and San Francisco.Phoenix is a popular destination for Canadians, who are welcomed by the business community.

“We have a lot of Canadians who winter here and they have a big impact on our economy, so that will make it easier for some additional Canadians to come down here and that’s great,said Ron McElhaney, vice-president of finance and operations at the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.Arizona’s desert climate, which includes Phoenix, has an average high of 23.8 C in November and there’s very little rain, according to the Arizona Tourism and Travel website.Golfers have plenty of places to play in Phoenix. There are tonnes of opportunities to golf here. We have golf courses everywhere,McElhaney said.The Waste Management Phoenix Open draws huge crowds. This PGA tour event next runs Jan. 30 to Feb. 5, 2012.For sun-seekers in Comox, direct flights between that community and Mexico are being reinstated this winter.Between Dec. 18 and March 28, a Boeing 737 will leave the Comox Valley Airport every Monday and Tuesday to fly to Cancun and Puerto Vallarta.

A special event to promote the flights, offering through Transat Holidays and Nolitours, is being held at the airport Saturday in its international arrivals area from 1 to 5 p.m.Transat first started offering winter flights to Puerto Vallarta from Comox in 2004 and then added Cancun in 2009. More than 22,700 passengers have flown from Comox to Mexico with Transat and Nolitours in the past eight years, said a Comox Airport release.

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