Alkan Air will end its twice-weekly service between Whitehorse and Watson Lake on Sept. 30 – just a little more than two years after it began offering it.
Alkan announced the decision via a service notice on its website.
“It has been Alkan Air’s sincere pleasure to serve the community over the past two years; however, current passenger volumes are not permitting regularly scheduled flight service to be operationally viable,” the notice reads.
“As a result, the company has made the difficult decision to cease regular flight service to Watson Lake on September 30, 2018.
“Please note, that until that time, service will continue on Mondays and Fridays as per the schedule, details and rates below.”
The service originally began with three service days in a week. That was later scaled back to twice a week.
In an interview this morning, Watson Lake CAO Cam Lockwood said that while it’s clear “the ridership wasn’t there” to sustain the service, it will have a major impact on the community – particularly in light of the recent end of Greyhound bus service in the territory.
“It’s huge on the passenger side,” Lockwood said, adding the flight service is the last public transportation option to be offered in and out of the southeast Yukon community.
While those without a vehicle or ride are without options to get out of the community, Lockwood noted many who have vehicles still chose to drive, given the $325 price tag on a one-way flight to Whitehorse.
Along with those who don’t have access to a vehicle for travel, the service has also been used by government staff who need to travel between the two communities quickly.
The flight takes 1 1/2 hours compared to the approximately 4 1/2 hours of driving time for the 450-km trip.
The Alkan service also provided a quick way to ship freight from Whitehorse to Watson Lake (provided it was shipped on a flight day).
And there was the added economic impact from the partnership with Budget Rent-A-Car, which has partnered with Alkan to offer vehicle rentals from the Watson Lake airport.
“Alkan Air extends its sincere appreciation to the Town of Watson Lake, to Liard First Nation and to all community and visitor service users,” Alkan stated in its notice.
“The company also thanks its partner, Budget Whitehorse, for providing rental vehicles at Watson Lake Airport (including one-way rentals so that passengers can fly one way and return by car) and to our Watson Lake shuttle service provider.
“We hope to see you on board between now and the end of September and wish everyone a very productive and successful summer season.”
Neither Alkan Air nor Budget officials were available for comment by press time this afternoon.