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If you have been reading some of my recent reviews you will know that I recently spent three weeks in Canada. This was the trip of a life time for me as it is somewhere I have always wanted to visit. For two of those weeks, me and a friend stayed in the city of Vancouver. But for our big adventure, we spent a week right up in the far North of Canada in the Yukon. We were using a small town called Whitehorse as our base up there. As you can imagine British Airways don't fly to Whitehorse, neither do any other major airlines that you are probably familiar with. So for our journey we had to use Air North.
Air North are a small airline in comparison to the airlines I'm used to travelling with. They are known as The Yukon's airline and have been running flights for around thirty years now. The company only offer a limited amount of flights all mainly in Canada. We flew from Vancouver to Whitehorse but you can also fly from Alberta, The Northwest Territories, Old Crow, Dawson City, Fairbanks, Calgary or Edmonton. So nearly all the flights are internal ones with the exception of the flights to Alaska.
Air North employs just over two hundred people, there head office is situated in Whitehorse itself. The airline also offers chartered flights as well as the regularly running commercial flights. Despite the Yukon's very harsh climate with it's bitter winters, the airline does all it can to keep it's service running and on time. The Yukon is famous for it's welcoming spirit and Air North tries to exemplify that spirit in the way it deals with it's customers.
So now in my review I want to tell you all about my experience travelling with this rather unique little airline. I hope that by hearing my story and grasping how I felt you will get a good understanding of the airline and what they are all about.
Just Checking In
We had planned to visit the Yukon early on in our three week stay in Canada. We had spent two days with friends in Vancouver, getting over the jet lag mainly and now it was time to again head to the airport and look to the North. We had a good flight time of 12.30 lunch time. So we were getting excited as we headed across Vancouver on the Sky Train. We were expecting some seriously cold temperatures in the North so had rather large bags with us containing out mass of warm cloths!
On arrival at Vancouver airport we made out way to check in. This was our first problem! Vancouver is a massive airport with over three hundred check in desks. These are all sprawled out in a long row in a rather hap hazardous fashion. So we started at one end and made our way along looking for the Air North banner. Fifteen frustrating minutes later we at the far end of the desks and still non the wiser! We spotted a near by information desk and made our way over. I asked the lady where Air North's desk was. 'Air who?' Not the reply we were expecting. She had never actually heard of the airline, quite a worry I thought! Anyway after making a few calls she apologised and directed us all the way to where we had just come from.
After another long walk we were back where we had started. We had missed a small corner of the airport where just a few small desks were located, here was our airline, hidden away as if the Airport was embarrassed to hosting such a small company. We went to the desk and we happy to see no queue for once! The lady on the desk was extremely friendly and asked us what to hansom young men were doing travelling somewhere like Whitehorse. We told her our plans for our little wilderness adventure as she smiled as if to say 'rather you than me'. As she helped us upload our luggage she chatted away merrily. As she checked her computer she asked us if we would like extra leg room as there was plenty of space on the plane. She said she could put us next to the emergency exit at no extra charge. Naturally we jumped at the chance! Then she wished us a pleasant trip and sent us on our way.
An hour later we were ready to board. As we waited in the departure lounge I noticed why me and my friend had stood out to the lady on the check in desk. The few people around us were all what I would describe as 'Woodsmen'. Most of them were big bearded men, who looked like they had seen some long winters. To be fair there were women as well, but me and my friend were the youngest by a distance.
As we boarded the plane something immediately struck me. There was something very different about this plane to others I've been on! Now I must admit it's not like I've been on hundreds of flights, but I've been on a fair few. But this plane looked like it was from the stone age! The seats were a kind of dark brown, there was blue trim everywhere and everything looked so dated. It was quite a small plane, I counted around a hundred seats, two sets of three with an isle down the middle.
The flight attendants also made me smile. They were again dressed like something from the eighties. Blue pants with neat little blue coats that looked like they had seen better days. They could have worked in Butlins! Anyway the welcome as we went on board was quite friendly and we went and found our seats.
As we sat there in our extra leg room fancy seats the flight attendant made his way down the isle greeting people and helping them with the over head compartments. I noticed he actually new a few people by name and was greeting them like old friends, this was something I was not used to but thought was very nice. As he reached me and my friend, he stopped and raised his eyebrows. Ooooo, foreigners! We laughed at his dry wit. He said we were not the airlines usual passengers and asked what we were up to. It was nice he took a real interest in us and said we would have a great time. He also explained that being sat in the emergency exit we had to know the evacuation procedure. He explained it in a very simple way that didn't feel like it was read from a script. He said he would talk to us later and then moved on down the isle.
As the plane geared up I noticed that indeed the flight was only about half full. I also noticed a lot of the people on board seemed to know each other. There was a really warm atmosphere on board. The next thing that struck me was the safety talk. We have all been there, flight attendants put on a fake smile and wave there arms around while we all pretend to listen. This one was slightly different. The pilot came on the loud speaker and introduced himself and then welcomed us all. Then he introduced each member of the flight crew who waved as there name was called. Next the pilot told us his crew where going to give us 'the best dam safety lesson ever!' He told them he want 110% percent from them. Then as he read out the safety instructions they did a little dance, waving there arms around and doing all the actions. It was honestly like watching pantomime! You could tell this was something that all hated doing but they had decided they might as well have fun while doing it. At the end of there little performance we all gave them a clap.
And Away We Fly
The plane took of bang on time, and despite me thinking it may well fall to pieces on take off it seemed to perform very well. As we lifted up into the clouds surrounding Vancouver our pilot told us out flight time would be just over two hours, we would be arrive in Whitehorse just after half two and he wished us all a pleasant flight. I leaned back and started to read my book.
About half an hour into our flight the guy who had been talking to us earlier returned to ask us about our holiday. He sat in the spare seat opposite and made himself comfy for five minutes. He seemed happy to just chat about Canada and told us what to expect in the Yukon. After a pleasant five minutes he told us they would be serving some food and drinks now so he would see us in a bit.
To say this was an internal flight I was quite surprised that we were fed and given drinks. We each got a tasty beef roll with lots of salad and mayo on. I think there was also a chicken option or something for vegetarians. We were also given a small bag of pretzels and a few biscuits. The two attendants who served us were both really friendly and genuinely looked as though they were enjoying there jobs. We were also given the option of hot or cold drinks, I went for a nice cup of coffee.
I was lucky enough to have the window seat for this flight. For once I was not sat on a wing so had a decent view out of the window. As we headed North over the vast Canadian mountain ranges I could see the lakes we starting to freeze over. At first you could see massive ice sheets with huge cracks in them. From this perspective you could see just how the landscape changed in the icy winter months. The mountains were all covered in snow and various glaciers twinkled like flowing rivers of ice. This was with out a doubt the best view I've ever had from a plane window.
As we neared the end of flight we started to descend. Hmmmm, was that just the most obvious statement ever? Anyway, as we got lower I could see for the first time the beauty and splendour of the Yukon. There were a few clouds around, but from what I could see it was just a vast wilderness covered in snow. There were trees everywhere, with mountain rutting up hear and there and every so often you would see a white lake covered in snow and ice. The view really was like nothing I had ever seen.
Now here is my favourite thing about the entire experience we had with Air North. The first time I had been on a plane was about twelve years ago at the age of sixteen. Before that I had heard stories of what it was like to fly and how you felt etc etc... One thing I was always told as a kid was that they give you sweets to suck as you come down so your ears don't explode. Yet in all the flights I've ever been on I've never once seen a boiled sweet in sight. Until now! The flight attendants came round with a massive tray of boiled sweets! I was so excited! She could see my enthusiasm so let me take a couple. So I merrily sucked away on my humbug as we came in for our final descent!
As we started our run in to the airport the pilot once again came on the speakers. He told us we would be landing in about ten minutes, told us we were bang on time and reminded us to put on a hat as it was currently -25 in Whitehorse. Eeeppp!! Despite the very small runway being covered in snow and ice, the plane made a very gentle landing. Nothing dropped of the plane and the old tyres didn't explode in impact. Our antique plane had done us proud.
As we left the plane the staff wished us a really good holiday and told us we would have a great time. They were all so friendly and made the experience so enjoyably I just wanted to take them all with me! I decided this was unwise and left them on the plane.
We came out into Whitehorse airport and I was stuck at how small it was. There was only one baggage carousel and I was amazed at how fast our luggage came through. This was it, the end of our journey, we were finally here. The adventure of a lifetime was well underway.... But all that's another story for another review!
I won't go through the entire experience all over again and send you all to sleep. I will just role of some the highlights. The first took place in the airport itself. We had been given another really warm welcome again at check in, and amazingly had again been given the seats with extra leg room! We went to the security gates and were ushered through pretty quickly. Now my experience of staff on these gates is that they don't talk to you, they don't smile and you had better now crack a joke! Anyway as my hand luggage went through the scanner, it was obvious there was a problem. The lady told me she would have to search my bag! Why is it you instantly feel guilty when something like this happens.
Anyway with in seconds of opening my bag, she pulled out my metal hipflask! I must admit I had forgotten that was in there, it was in the side pocket from when we had been walking. She asked if there was anything in it, and I honestly wasn't sure. She took of the top and had a sniff. 'Ooooo, that smells amazing,' she said. It was my expensive whisky I has treated myself to back in England. 'It smells expensive' she told me with a smile. 'It is,' I replied. Well then it can be our little secret she said, but be more careful in future. She tucked it back into my bag and handed it to me. I was stunned! I was expecting her to pour it away as I watched on horrified. But she obviously new it was no big deal and so let me get away with it. That's the way it should be!
We had a small delay taking off as there had been a heavy snow storm move in as we were boarding. They had to de-ice the wings which took about fifteen minutes, but the pilot came and told us exactly what was going on and said it would not be long to take off. As the flight attendant came down we realised it was are old friend from the previous flight. Soon as he spotted us he broke out into a big smile. He was so pleased to see us and said he would return during the flight and we could tell him of our little adventure. He was true to his word and came and had another chat with us half way through our return flight. Again he was so friendly and genuine with it at the same time.
We had some nice food again on the flight and everything ran very smoothly. I was delighted to get some more sweets as we neared Vancouver and was happily sucking away as we came into land. We landed on time and had no problems collecting out baggage at the airport. Everything had run smoothly and it was an easy flight.
As you can probably tell from my enthusiasm on the subject, I quite like this airline. Air North are without a shadow of a doubt the best airline I have ever flown with. It felt like I had gone back in time twenty years, but this was not a problem. We received the friendliest welcome I could possibly imagine, the service was top class, the food and drink was excellent and everything ran smoothly as it could possibly have done.
Our flights from Vancouver to Whitehorse cost us £210 return. To say this is an internal flight it is a little on the expensive side, but we were told that most internal flights in North America are considerably more expensive than in the UK. To be fair it is nearly a thousand miles from Vancouver to Whitehorse. If you are travelling to the North of Canada or want more information on Air North they have an excellent website. www.FlyAirNorth.com From here you can get information about flights, book them, and find all sort of useful information.
Chances our you will never have heard of Air North until now. Chances our you will never hear of them again. But I wanted to share my experience of this truly magical airline with you. If you are ever lucky enough to fly to the Yukon, chances our you will use Air North, if the experience you have with them was anything at all like mine, I can guarantee this will be the most pleasurable flight of your life! Air North is the best airline I have ever travelled with and I doubt I will ever find anything to equal them!