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Artist’s conception shows the seaplane and logos envisioned for the new seaplane to service Tacoma, run in partnership by the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and Kenmore Air.(Photo: The News Tribune | Puyallup Tribe of Indians)

Harbour Air Resumes Service to Seattle

Earlier this month, Harbour Air resumed its seaplane service between downtown Vancouver, Canada and downtown Seattle. The route has been on hiatus since the transborder closed in 2020. The Vancouver-based carrier attempted to restart flying between the pair in June 2021. However, the uptick in Covid cases and tight entrance requirements kept the plan from materialization until this month.

The service started as a joint venture between Harbour Air and Kenmore Air in April 2018, with each airline operating half of the flights. The flight offers considerable time savings with quick passport control and proximity to city centers. Its first operating season saw over 3100 passengers flying, exceeding the airlines’ expectations.

The tech companies in the area drove the strong demand. The city of Vancouver, Canada even featured this service in its bid to become Amazon HQ2. Therefore, both sides of the border have shown strong interest in bringing the service back.

The relaunched route’s frequency matches its pre-pandemic level with two roundtrips on weekdays and a daily roundtrip during weekends. However, the Vancouver-based carrier is the sole operator at the restart, while its Seattle-based counterpart codeshares the flights. This change introduced a modified routing compared to its original launch.

The new service excludes the leg between downtown Seattle and Kenmore Air’s base in Lake Washington. The Canadian carrier’s move to restart the service by itself shows its interest in capturing the business traveling demands between the metropolitan areas. It’s unclear if the operation will return to its original arrangement.

The revised schedule also significantly changes the time on the ground of a same-day return trip. Time in Vancouver, Canada is reduced from 8 hours and 30 minutes to 4 hours, while time in Seattle is increased from 5 hours and 40 minutes to 7 hours. The change will likely create positive impacts. It provides more time for passengers who originate in Canada to conduct business in Seattle while only having minimal effect on the demand for traffic originating in the U.S.

Travelers who originate in Seattle can hardly make same-day return trips, because the U.S. still requires all travelers entering the country by air to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The route’s return follows Kenmore Air’s service resumption to Victoria, Canada in April 2022. It signifies travel across the U.S.-Canada border is one step closer to normality.

Kenmore Air, Tribal Casinos Partnership

While its Canadian partner relaunches, Seattle-based Kenmore Air and the Puyallup Tribe announced a planned seaplane dock and seaplane service out of Tacoma, Wash. The partnership is aimed at expanding tourism and attracting Canadian casino-goers.

The tribe plans to build a new terminal on land it recently bought for this operation. The pair expects to launch the service in late 2023. The Seattle-based carrier will operate one plane in the newly constructed port with flights to Victoria, Canada and the San Juan Islands, Wash. Both destinations are popular vacation spots and are only accessible by ferry or air.

The new service will reduce travel times for travelers heading out of the city from 4-5 hours to 1.5 hours. Similarly, it will make the tribe’s latest casino the closest casino to both locations, reducing travel time by half. The family-owned airline will also provide sightseeing flights in the nearby area.

It’s a common tactic for casinos to lure gamblers with transportation assistance. Most incentives include free water shuttles, ground shuttles or game coupons. In the past, casinos in Mississippi subsidized AirTran flights to grow their gambling business.

Despite not disclosing any details on the project’s cost, the tribe said it would invest a substantial amount, hinting its primary goal is to attract high-rolling players. It remains to be seen how the Tribe will promote the floatplane operation.

In addition to boosting foot traffic at the tribe’s casino, the tribe also hopes to engage young people from the Tribe in the aviation sector. The seaplane operator will operate the new terminal and provide support, as the tribe looks to hire workers for it.

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