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At least one Juneau-to-Whitehorse flight nixed

Whitehorse cannot commit money to guarantee flights until the new year

Posted: Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A lack of funding and interest from Whitehorse will keep at least one of the three proposed flights between Juneau and the nearby Canadian city from happening this winter.

Whitehorse Tourism and Economic Development Coordinator Sheila Dodd said the city didn't have any additional money through the end of the year for a flight in December. "We legally can't do that," she said of spending into a deficit.

She said they can, however, consider flights in 2010 and are currently in budget discussions.

Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway was out of town and unavailable for comment.

The Juneau Assembly voted in October to guarantee the seats on three proposed round-trip flights between the two communities at a cost of $8,800 per flight, contingent on a reciprocal guarantee by Whitehorse.

If no tickets for a 40-person flight sell, the city pays $8,800. If one ticket goes unsold, the city would only pay the price of that one ticket. If the flights sell out, the city would owe nothing.

Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho said while he is hopeful Whitehorse will find the money for at least one spring flight, no flights will happen without parallel funding from that community.

The need for passports and added security fees since Sept. 11 discourage flights, Dodd said. She said Air North also has had a decrease of people flying to Fairbanks.

Botelho said those federal fees are not negotiable.

Dodd also said Whitehorse has not had as many people express interest, something she attributed to a lack of a proper marketing period.

"We've had maybe five calls," said Dodd. "Juneau did much better."

Dodd added, however, that "We're very disappointed we can't come in for the first week of December. We were so looking forward to coming in. Everyone here always wants to go shopping in Juneau for Christmas and go to First Friday ... Juneau has a kind of magical quality for people in the Yukon."

The next two proposed flights are Feb. 19 to Feb. 21, built around the Yukon Quest sled dog race, and April 9 to April 11, during Alaska Folk Festival. They would cost $240 per round-trip ticket and take about one hour.

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



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