Flying With Air North, Yukon’s Airline

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Travel

I review all kinds of airlines, though almost always in premium cabins. I don’t review many economy products because there’s just not as much to review (okay, and if I’m being honest, flying 400,000+ miles per year in economy sounds brutal).

Yesterday I took a flight on a 25 year old Boeing 737-500… and it was the most fun flight I’ve taken within North America in a long time.

Specifically, I flew Air North on the two hour flight from Whitehorse to Vancouver.

Air North is the airline of Yukon, and they operate a fleet of just eight planes, including three turboprops and five 737s. The 737s are an average of over 25 years old, but my gosh is this a good airline.

Air North is based at Whitehorse Airport, which is so small that’s it’s precious. The whole travel experience felt as if the airline was run out of a basement by a family, in a good way. At check-in we saw Air North employees hugging some customers they clearly knew.

About 10 minutes before boarding the gate agent announced “ladies and gentlemen, I’ve gone ahead and set up a complimentary coffee, tea, juice, and cookie station, so please be sure you make use of that.”

As we boarded, the gate agent asked every single passenger how they were doing, and then said “have a great day and enjoy your flight.”

The 737-500 I was on was 26 years old, and had flown for Aer Lingus, Air France, Lithuanian Airlines, FlyLAL Charters, and Air Cuenca. I was sort of hoping to be on the ex-RwandAir 737-500, but I had no such luck.

I forgot that economy seats can actually be comfortable. While many airlines nowadays have slimline seats that have as much padding as a park bench, Air North has the big puffy leather seats that virtually all airlines had when I was a kid.

It might not look it, but the legroom was excellent as well. When I looked at it from above I thought it looked tight, but once seated I was amazed how much room there was between my knees and the seatback in front.

We were treated to some breathtaking views flying out of Whitehorse.

The crew couldn’t have been friendlier. This was a two hour flight, and they had a drink service, then a snack service, and then “a drink service before landing.” LOL! They worked almost nonstop.

All food and drinks are free on Air North. For a snack there was the choice between a yogurt parfait, a fruit and fiber muffin, or a slice of triple berry loaf. The muffins and loafs were presented as if someone had prepared them in their own kitchen with plates they bought at Costco. Getting anything to eat for free nowadays is a treat domestically, though Air North actually serves hot meals on their longer flights.

The airline serves local beer and coffee, and the coffee was excellent.

What an awesome airline! In so many ways humanity has been taken out of the US airline flying experience, to the point that as passengers we often feel like self loading freight that’s inconveniencing frontline employees with our presence.

So it’s amazing how much of a difference it can make when you’re treated like a guest, and not just a transaction. Every Air North employee I interacted with was friendly, and there are so many aspects to their service where they go above and beyond (sometimes in minor ways), and it makes such a huge difference in terms of perception.

Well done, Air North!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the review! The airlines of Canada’s northern territories – Air North, Canadian North and First Air being the main ones – are the lifeblood of the region, critical for transporting both people and cargo year-round to destinations which lack road or even full-year seaport access.

  2. I’m flying them tommorow to Vancouver as well. Just got off an Etihad 777 at Toronto where my seat wouldn’t recline and the entertainment screen kept freezing 🙁

  3. @lucky: how much have you paid for your ticket?

    I think you and all other airline passengers have to keep it in perspective. It is not the airlines that are denying you decent food or a plush seat on the plane. It is the combination of competition and people just buying the cheapest ticket they can find off a website, that leads to a race to the bottom.

    I assume that Air North has limited competition on most routes, high yields, and thus both the service and aircraft are a look back in time.

  4. Lucky’s title: “Air North, The Yukon’s Airline”
    Picture of gate monitor immediately below: “Air North, Yukon’s Airline”

  5. “you didn’t fly on their HS748? that plane is very rare.”

    Didn’t know any were still flying. They must be 50 years old.

  6. If I am not mistaken, these type of seats kind of resemble the seats on Air Asia. The LCCs and smaller airlines still treat their customers like guests instead of the legacy carriers where everyone represents currency in any type of cabin.

  7. I gotta say, I love the home-made looking cake! I do feel that the stereotype of Canadian friendliness is overdone, but it is lovely to hear these sorts of experiences, especially in smaller, more rural parts of the country.

  8. In Scotland there’s Loganair which flies to the highlands and islands. One of their planes is only 8 seats – my friend’s dad used to get it frequently and sometimes he’d be the only person on the plane. They’d call him over the intercom when it was ready to board!

    Ever considered flying to Barra, an island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland? It’s the only airport with a scheduled service where you land on the beach! Loganair has a codeshare with BA.

  9. Porter (based at Toronto City airport) is another example of a Canadian airline with great passenger service — they serve complementary beer and wine on board. And their boarding lounges offer water, coffee and sodas.
    Must be something in the water north of the border:-)

  10. @Charles and @Mitch Cumstein: True, just as nobody says ‘the Lebanon’, ‘the Gambia’, ‘the Sudan’ and ‘the Lebanon’ any more.

  11. “loafs were presented as if someone had prepared them in their own kitchen with plates they bought at Costco.”

    Love this description! Hope it was as tasty as it looks.

  12. Nice review. But I don’t see why there is a need to make a big deal about flying economy every time it happens. It’s not such a big deal, millions of people do it every day.

  13. This certainly brings back memories of my youth, flying in comfortable economy cabins with friendly crews and down-home treats. Great review!

  14. The reason Air North is so pleasant is probably because Warren Buffet is NOT a major shareholder like he is in the big three.

  15. I love ‘old’ Airlines.

    Wasn’t as lucky as you but I was close. Was on an Air Mediterranean 737-400 – it was the most comfortable economy seat I’ve ever flown.

    It really was a shame they folded so soon

    Service was great, food was great.
    Such is the way the the economy is in c21…

  16. is that you Prime Minister?

    “Justin says:
    September 19, 2018 at 11:30 am
    I gotta say, I love the home-made looking cake! I do feel that the stereotype of Canadian friendliness is overdone, but it is lovely to hear these sorts of experiences, especially in smaller, more rural parts of the country.”

  17. I can feel the love. It’s nice. I’ve missed it. Why don’t airlines love me anymore? Was it something I said?

  18. @Lucky… I too miss the days when the big three were about 8 smaller airlines and they actually had service, treated pax well and seats were decent. Planes weren’t packed and no one knew about upgrades. I don’t miss the old economy mystery meals. Those were never good… Give me buy on board any day over that. Unfortunately, flights were way more expensive, as I remember my employer dropping over a grand a week for my flights in the late eighties – flights that cost $600-$800 now. Cheaper now, not even considering inflation. But we can remember the good old days anyway!

  19. @The Charles & The Mitch Cumstein

    Based off of experience, The Lucky isn’t so worried about a grammar here. The Yukon, A Yukon, here a Yukon, there a Yukon, everywhere a Yukon. There are probably several Yukons out there.

  20. Between the “my gosh” and “precious” you’d think this review was written by a 75 year old grandmother from Mississippi.

    The quality of these reviews continues to decline. Can’t say I’m surprised.

  21. I wonder if that’s because Air North faces virtually no competition against other airlines and thus they’re able to raise prices without making cuts to corner

  22. I wasn’t aware that competing with carriers like Westjet and Air Cananda means “Air North faces virtually no competition”. That’s certainly one way to look at it. Also, if anyone actually did their research they would know that Air North has significantly decreased the cost of air travel for northerners since they begun flying forcing Air Canada and Westjet to lower their prices as well.

  23. Just loved this review. Real honest service unadulterated by corporate spin and cost cutting. Who needs la premiere……..????

  24. Chris,

    What kind of language would you prefer – some gritty urban slang?

    And stereotypes about elderly MidWestern women isn’t too constructive.

    This is a family website.

  25. @UA Fan – you can’t redeem Air Canada (aeroplan) miles on Air North but you can redeem Avion points etc.

    Air North is cheaper than flying Air Canada most of the time, if not, they will price match. (www.flyairnorth.com)

    Flights south from Whitehorse are to Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria, and Kelowna – they are often overlooked as they are not on the same system that Expedia/Travelocity etc use.

    Just noting this stuff as a long time user of AN; my next flight with them is Saturday to Vancouver.

  26. Good to see and read this happy review of Air North (and on the world’s underrated regional airlines) such as this welll deserved spotlight on Air North and your previous spotlights on Porter and (earstwhile) Sun Country Airlines. I always cheer for the good guys not, as much as possible, those evil multinational companies. Happy to read this article on Air North:)

  27. The YXYYVR route was Air Canada’s highest grossing route before Air North started flying it. A return flight (approximately a 2hr 20 min. flight) cost CAD $1,200 twenty years ago with Air Canada.

    Air North actually provided the competition, reduced the regular flight cost by 60% and chose to add traveller amenities such as food, two pieces of checked baggage, etc.

    Air North remains a better value for flights on this route in my opinion because they fly larger planes which are better heated and more comfortable than the small planes Air Canada flies and Air North continues to allow two pieces of checked luggage at no cost.

  28. It’s all true. Staffers are friendly & incredibly, the seats are roomy. They serve delicious coffee (from Midnight Sun Roasters, Whitehorse) & make the most delectable oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies & meals from their own kitchen. Only downsides – they are rarely on fare aggregators and there’s no in flight entertainment. Yes, they have competition but they are preferred by most flyers up here.

  29. Thanks for writing this review, Lucky. Air North is one of our treasures.

    Responding to some comments…
    For all you Outsiders (what we call those who don’t live here) out there.
    The Yukon has been ‘The Yukon’ since forever. Until some knucklehead in power worried about the grammar went and had it changed to plain old Yukon in 2003.

    The Yukon is more than just a place. It’s a state of mind, a way of life.
    Ask any local (those who have lived here before 2003) and they’ll tell you. Or better yet – ask Robert Service 1874-1958. There are many books of his writings about The Yukon, including ‘The Spell of The Yukon’. Check it out.

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