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Proposed Whitehorse flights nixed due to lack of interest

Yukon city won't back flights approved by Juneau Assembly

Posted: Friday, February 12, 2010

None of the three proposed winter flights between Whitehorse and Juneau backed by the Juneau Assembly will happen because of lack of sufficient interest and backing in Whitehorse.

"I'm just disappointed," said Westmark Baranof Hotel General Manager Steve Hamilton, who was involved in the push for the flights. "I don't know what actually went on on the Whitehorse end, but it seemed like such a slam dunk."

Supporters of the connection began the process with high hopes; the Assembly backed Juneau's half of three winter flights with $26,400 through a 6-3 vote in October, and Mayor Bruce Botelho said he hoped regular flights would be reestablished by June 2010.

Whitehorse, however, did not back the flights. December flights didn't happen because of lack of interest and backing in Whitehorse; though Whitehorse's Economic Development and Tourism Department Supervisor, Sheila Dodd, said in January interest for the proposed flight in February was picking up. That level of interest wasn't enough to merit regular flights, she said.

"We were getting interest, but just for that one weekend (in February) and really the object was to ... get a regular flight in place, and there wasn't enough for that," said Dodd. "The objective was to make this happen regularly, not just to back a charter flight one time."

Dodd said one reason could be the economy.

Botelho said the news was a disappointment, but that the discussion has piqued interest in Whitehorse promoting connections with Juneau, perhaps through the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Whitehorse is currently advertising for potential visitors in Juneau, Haines and Skagway.

"What we're going to try to do is increase traffic from the communities along the ferry," Dodd said. "Perhaps because of that, people will say 'Hey, we need to get that flight back.'"

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.



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