Is Anyone Else Fascinated By Air North?

A few days ago Ben wrote about some business class experiences he’d like to review. I’ve been just as fascinated by Condor’s route from Frankfurt to the Yukon as he is – so I sent him a text asking, “When are we going to Whitehorse?” Long story short, we’re planning a trip! (After all, who could say nay to a place with a name like Whitehorse?) 😉

Canada’s sparsely populated federal territories (Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut) look beautiful, and I’ve always wanted to make my way up there. But I can’t imagine going all the way to Whitehorse without flying on the city’s hometown airline, Air North. Ever heard of it?

They have a reputation for being an especially beloved airline. Their website may not have the unnecessary complexity bells and whistles of aa.com, but it has lots of personality. Their News section, for example, contains archives going back several years, including some adorable April Fool’s releases – recent ones include announcing the acquisition of an A380 featuring a gambling hall, puppy pen, and hourly yoga classes; and promoting a new route from Whitehorse to Amritsar, India. They also have a YouTube channel, with videos that range from adorable to slightly cringeworthy.

Their route network covers several cities in western Canada, including 737 service to Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton. They even fly as far as Ottawa. But what I’m most interested in is their service within the Yukon – they fly to Old Crow, population 221, and to Dawson City, the second most populous municipality in the territory after Whitehorse (with about 1,400 people and about 25,000 people, respectively).

By the way, one of Dawson’s claims to fame is the “Sourtoe Cocktail” served at its Downtown Hotel – a drink that contains a shot of whiskey and a mummified human toe. I generally prefer my adult beverages when they don’t contain actual adults, but to each his own.

Flights to Dawson City on Air North are operated by ATR 42 turboprops and by Hawker Siddeley 748s. The HS 748 is a British turboprop that was produced from the early 1960s to the late 80s, and there aren’t many still in commercial service (Air North has a few, and many of the remaining examples also fly for small Canadian airlines).

Air North HS 748. Photo credit: Ken Fielding (https://www.flickr.com/photos/kenfielding)

I would absolutely love to try that Whitehorse to Dawson City flight a 748. (The only “748” I’ve flown on in the past was a Boeing 747-8.) Here’s hoping we can fit it into our itinerary!

Does anyone have experience with Air North, or are there any other towns in the Yukon that are must sees?

Comments

  1. Wait, Ben is going to Whitehorse? But there are no chain hotels there apart from a Best Western!!!

  2. Dawson City is more interesting and scenic than Whitehorse. Would recommend staying there.

    Little Atlin Lodge is a good option outside of Whitehorse (about 40mi). Be sure to stock up on provisions before getting out there. Cabin features a wood stove and propane lighting/fridge/cooking. The lake was still partially frozen when we went in late May a few years back. Was great for keeping beer ice cold.

    Pretty sure that Air North recently retired the HS-748 from regularly scheduled service. When we took the trip a few years back, it was a 737-200 Combi from Edmonton to Whitehorse, and the HS-748 from Whitehorse to Dawson City. Good times.

  3. The CEO is an old acquaintance of mine who has had some interesting prior stops in his career. He seems to be enjoying it up there though.

    Whitehorse is good for about a day. You can literally walk the entire town in that time.

  4. Check out First air and Canadian North too! You can even use aeroplan miles on those flights

  5. A fun game for aviation geeks on a flight to YXY: How many of the palindrome airport codes can you think of without looking them up in addition to YXY? I’ll get you started with the first and last alphabetically: AGA, ZAZ.

  6. If you search on flightreport.com you can find many reviews. Apparently, they are much better than AC or WestJet.

  7. Air north is nice, however, don’t expect first class or entertainment. However they do offer free food on some flights, a rarity for domestic flights.

  8. Does Canada have the equivalent of the US’s Essential Air Service subsidy program, to maintain flights to places like Old Crow?

  9. Yeah, as @Nate said, there are actually three airlines servicing Canada’s North with connections to southern gateway cities: Air North (Yukon), Canadian North, and First Air. I don’t think any has a business class, but I believe they each have a frequent flyer program and at least one has an “elite” level.

  10. Ahhhhhh our northern territories getting coverage on OMAAT? I’ve lived in Nunavut and Northwest Territories for years, and have been to Yukon a few times. Northern Canada still has lots of operational 732s, the workhorse of isolated communities in its combi configuration, and plenty of other relics.

    If you’re planning on going to Dawson City, go on July 20-22 for their music festival. Air North has been phasing out their Siddeleys in favour of ATRs btw so check to make sure you can still fly on it. They sometimes also change equipment during busy periods such as during the festival. If you want to turn this into a longer vacation, rent a car and check out Kluane National Park, it’s gorgeous. When in Burwash Landing you can do a flight seeing tour over the mountains and see the glaciers. You can also drive to Skagway, Alaska, or the Dempster Highway into Inuvik and now further to the Arctic Ocean on the newly built Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk “Highway”.

    And if you’re going to be up here anyway, it’s worth considering flying Canadian North, First Air and Calm Air. If you’re lucky you’ll find Aeroplan availability. Summer gives us 24 hours of sunlight, and winter gives us auroras. Shoulder seasons aren’t the best.

    As for service, northern carriers are better than AC and WS in that they treat you like a human being and at the very least you’ll get a snack, and often hot meals depending on the flight. Don’t expect entertainment, premium cabins, and definitely not wifi. The planes are old.

    Let me know if you need any other tips, and if you’re in the Northwest Territories you’ll have a place to stay in the capital. Here you will also find Buffalo Airways, the infamous Ice Pilots NWT airline (TV show on bush pilots and the quirks of living in the subarctic). They do tours of their hangar where you can see operational DC-3s, DC-4s, Electras, C-46s, CL-215s, etc.

  11. @Justin – only Canadian North has a frequent flier program (Aurora Rewards), and you can earn Aeroplan miles on Canadian North, First Air and Calm Air. You’re also forgetting Calm Air, connecting Nunavut (Kivalliq) to Manitoba. No premium cabins on any northern airline.

    I also forgot to mention that Air North sells air passes which may make trips slightly cheaper, although I don’t see the better ones on sale yet that incorporate the entire route network. You can have two people using the passes.

  12. @Larry

    How many maximum possible palindrome airport codes can you have?

    They don’t need to be actual existing airports.

  13. Ben,

    Take a trip to Yellowknife and go to see Buffalo Airways, they operate some very old piston engine relics, great people.
    Have a look at Ice Pilots on ?Netflix? great viewing.

  14. I took the plane from Vancouver to Whitehorse for aurora viewings and the Sourdough festival. While waiting to board at Vancouver, it seemed that half the people taking the flight knew each other. During the flight, you’ll see a continuous range of mountains – book a window seat – it’s the best entertainment! The Best Western in Whitehorse has Japanese staff due to the high numbers of Japanese tourists.

  15. Australia has an Air North as well, hubbing at Darwin and providing a similar service to northern Australia and Timor Leste.

  16. The 748 is just an operational spare at this point. No reliable way to book a flight on it as I found out the hard way when I made a trip to Whitehorse solely to fly on it last November after the 748 began appearing in the schedule again only to have it change back to a ATR42. Though the 748 shows as operating flights from time to time it rarely sticks. One of my contacts has been trying to organize an enthusiast charter for the 748 since it’s virtually impossible to guarantee flying on it by booking a scheduled flight.

  17. On March 24, 1975 I flew AIR NORTH from AKL to ROT flight GD688 registered ZK-DBK aero commander aircraft.
    With reason New Zealand agent in Tahiti told me…Air North ? I never heard about.
    Supposing there is no relationship to your report, but it is curious.

  18. Dear Andrew,

    Yukon is a fantastic place to visit, hospitality at its best. The people are warm and friendly, the landscape stunning.

    If you’d like to know more about Air North’s product on both HS7 and 735, you can read my flight reports here:

    https://flight-report.com/en/s/?airline=Air+North+Charter+-+Canada&departure=&arrival=&auteur=&constructor=0&modeles=0&annee=0&Y=1&W=1&J=1&F=1

    If your travels bring you to Dawson City, have a stop at the Alchemy Coffee, one of the best place downtown, they may even have availability in their bed and breakfast.

    Also the Sourtoe Cocktail is a must try 🙂

    All the best and enjoy Yukon’s hospitality.

  19. I flew the Aussie AirNorth DIL-DRW. We got a snack, and all the beer we could drink for AUD160. Even some Qantas FF points to boot. I don’t think you can go wrong with the regional airlines of the “North.”

  20. Great tips Chopsteeq! I’ve been planning a trip to Dawson City after watching the ‘Frozen Time’ movie last year. And getting to Tuk would be a true adventure. I didn’t know about the new road from Inuvik. No chain hotels in Dawson, but I’m sure Ben knows he can still get 5x Membership Rewards points for booking even a local hotel on amextravel!

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