Monday, July 03, 2023

Up in the air: Flying Harbour Air from Comox Harbour to Vancouver Harbour

Usually I take the ferry between the Comox Valley and Vancouver when I'm not flying directly back East, but on this trip I wanted to maximize my time in Vancouver without the half-day it takes to get to Nanaimo, make the crossing and get downtown from Horseshoe Bay. Researching, I learned that Harbour Air flies harbour to harbour from Comox to Vancouver. The price was right enough, so I booked the first departure of the morning.

I found the pricing and fare structure a little confusing and the web site verbiage wasn't a big help. Basically, it comes down to how much your luggage weighs an seat selection. But on my flight all the seats were basically the same and I didn't have a huge amount of luggage so it didn't really matter. I bought the upper fare to be safe but it wasn't really needed. I did get a coupon for a free drink in the Vancouver lounge I'll need to use on a future trip as it was too early to drink on arrival.

We had a little trouble finding the Comox terminal, a little trailer on the far side of the park from where you usually go if you're visiting. I did like that they had a terminal doggo, who sat on my lap for a bit after the check-in formalities, and there was also another travelling doggo making the trip. They took our bags and then the pilot took us on a bit of a hike amongst the boats in the harbour to reach our place on the far side.

Boarding was fairly quick, strapping on a seat belt and a flotation device in case of water landing, and after a safety briefing the engines were fired up and we began our takeoff roll in the harbour, giving me a good view of HMCS Quadra and out towards CFB Comox. The other side of the plane had the Courtenay view before we turned down the Straight of Georgia.

It was a scenic view at a low altitude down the straight, offering a much better view than the same trip on one of the Air Canada or Pacific Coastal regional jets or Beech Airs at higher altitudes. 

Before too long we made our approach into Vancouver's Harbour, flying over Stanley Park and past the Lion's Gate Bridge and splashing down in the busy harbour before taxiing to the float plane terminal right behind the convention centre at Canada Place. I grabbed my bags and was a short walk from my downtown hotel.

All in all, I enjoyed the experience -- definitely beat getting a ride to Nanaimo, and hour and a half on the ferry, and a long bus side downtown from Horseshoe Bay. And spectacular scenery. Though it does come at a cost premium.

It worked for me this day was I didn't have a ton of baggage (shoulder bag and carry-on sized suitcase) and was staying downtown. If I had more bags or was going right to YVR it wouldn't have worked. But I hope circumstances align for me to try it again one day. After all, have that drink coupon to use...

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