Northernlife.ca | BY HEIDI ULRICHSEN
Tired of shovelling snow and pulling on numerous layers of clothing to ward off the cold?
Thanks to the City of Greater Sudbury and Sunwing Travel Group, sunny skies and warm temperatures are just four hours away.
The company, which has its own airline, is offering direct flights from Sudbury to Varadero, Cuba every Wednesday this winter until March 15, 2006.
The first 189-passenger flight took off from the Sudbury airport this week.
For an average price of $1,000 plus tax, people can board the noon flight and ride on a Boeing 737 jet decked out with spacious leather seats.
The package also includes an all expenses paid vacation at a resort in Varadero. Vacationers are flown back to Sudbury one week later.
Sunwing decided to offer direct flights out of Sudbury and Thunder Bay this year because the program was so successful in other cities, says Daryl McWilliams, vice-president of sales and marketing at the company.
“Last year we had expanded to Ottawa and London as gateways, and we were very satisfied with that, and we wanted to continue with that type of regional expansion,” he says.
“We looked at other possibilities in Ontario, and Sudbury was the easiest choice to make. We also looked at North Bay as a possibility, but of course, their population is much smaller.”
Sudbury was chosen because it has a good population base and a stable economy, and because there have never been any direct flights out of the city to vacation spots before, says McWilliams.
“The response has been superb. It’s the shining star of the moment of the (Sunwing) group, to be honest. It’s out-performing every other gateway that we have.”
The Varadero flight is also a really good deal, says McWilliams, because it eliminates the need to fly or drive to Toronto.
Greater Sudbury Director of Airport Services Robert Johnston has already booked his tickets to Varadero for February.
“Myself, my wife and some friends of ours had ironically gone to Varadero two years ago. I enjoyed it very much. I thought with this first year of service, it would be good for me to see how it’s working and have a vacation at the same time,” he says.
The city has been trying to get an international carrier to organize direct flights out of Sudbury for a long time, says Johnston.
“There always seemed to be some hurdles that they couldn’t get over at the time, whether it was customs, or inadequate facilities to make it work,” he says.
When Sunwing approached the city, they were able to work out a way to do the necessary customs checks at the airport.
These flights are good for Sudbury’s economy, says Johnston. Sunwing is hiring local people to check passengers in, handle baggage and maintain their aircraft.
“We also expect over time, if this grows…to see people coming into our community and overnighting and doing their shopping, and then going on their flights,” he says.
The response has been so good that the city hopes Sunwing will add another destination to their Sudbury roster next year.
“We’ll cross one bridge at a time, but we’re hoping this will be a very successful season, and that will allow us a springboard into the next phase, which would be adding a destination for 2007.”