Dozens of local business people, politicians and media were on hand on Thursday as the first direct flight between Toronto and Kamloops via Air Canada Rouge touched down.
Passengers arrived to find a ceremonial welcome, including a water salute and a sabre archway using ski poles, fishing poles and golf clubs.
The inaugural flight marks the first of three months of direct flights between Kamloops and the country's biggest city and airport hub.
It's good news for the Kamloops economy, says Mayor Ken Christian (who's also president of the Kamloops Airport Authority), but locals need to use it if they want it to stay.
"Air Canada Rouge and the confidence they have in this economy and these tourism opportunities and business opportunities speaks highly of them, and I think we can return the favour in terms of passenger volumes," he says. "We need to make sure that they're getting at least 80 per cent occupancy on these flights and that I think would prove to them that this is a sustainable route.
"This will only be successful if Kamloops and area residents support it. If they don't support it, the company will find another route where they can find these kinds of passenger loads."
The company has committed to offer service this summer. Christian hopes that Sun Peaks tourism will help numbers as well, if flights are to continue into the fall and winter.
Air Canada director Serge Corbeil says the company decided on Kamloops for a couple of reasons, including tracking passenger behaviour. Many passengers who fly from Kamloops to Vancouver or Calgary are transferring to flights to Toronto or elsewhere, and the Toronto flight will relieve some of the pressure on those routes.
"We have a limited number of airplanes that we can put on different routes and we've looked at a number of different domestic Canada routes," he tells KamloopsMatters. "Kamloops, with tourism growing, with all that Kamloops has to offer, this direct link at this time made sense to us."
Corbeil says the company isn't sure yet what the future of the route will be beyond the three months.
"The first decision will be to look at how the summer went and should we go into next summer as well as a summer seasonal," he says.
He says that's usually the way the airline decides on new routes, before looking at different seasons, calling it an "incremental" process.
"We know Kamloops and the area has lots to offer in the winter as well, but we're not there yet," he says. "We'll look at the summer first."
The flights between Kamloops and Toronto are on Airbus A320 jets, with 136 seats. Corbeil says that it's not just overall volume that will affect the decision on the route, but also the sale of premium economy seats.
A milestone day for #YKA with the arrival of @AirCanadaRouge nonstop from @TorontoPearson! Water salute, welcome arch, custom cake, even Kamloops Mounted Patrol on hand to mark the moment! Thanks to all for joining us. Book tix here! https://t.co/VrSZkqEN2d pic.twitter.com/ZKiPV0WW2J— Kamloops Airport (@KamloopsAirport) June 21, 2018
"The premium economy has to sell as well to make the overall flight a success," he says. "Right now, the flight is selling well."
Brandon Olds was one of the first passengers off the flight and says he was happy with the new route.
"I'm happy to be home, and I'm glad I didn't have to do a connecting flight," he says. "The aircraft, flying Toronto to Kamloops and I'd imagine the same one flying back, was way more comfortable; there's way more leg room, the seats are more comfortable, the in-flight entertainment system and the way that they approach it is better."
He estimates the direct flight saved him four or five hours. While he flies between the two cities occasionally, he says the new flight will encourage him to travel more often.