Vancouver by Air: The new downtown float plane terminal

Coal Harbour landing

Watch out YVR.  Here comes CXH.

Quietly, without a lot of hoopla, Vancouver has added a new airport.  CXH is the code for the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre, the brand new float plane terminal located downtown right next the the Vancouver Convention Centre.  The airport opened back in May, but it hasn’t got a lot of attention yet.

Here’s the lowdown.  As airports go, the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre has the tiniest of footprints.  It consists of just a pair of environmentally safe concrete docks that extend out into Coal Harbour and accommodate up to 18 float planes.  Two airlines are currently operating out of the airport, Seair and Tofino Air.   Both run daily scheduled flights to Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.  The flight (around $70 each way) is only 15 minutes, compared to 1 hour and 40 minutes on the Horseshoe Bay Ferry.

But for visitors to Vancouver, the main draw is probably the scenic flights offered by both airlines.  I have to confess that I’ve never flown in a float plane before.  But I’ve seen plenty skim to a graceful landing on Coal Harbour.  It looks pretty exhilarating.  And as iconic Canadian experiences go, I’d have to say a flight in a float plane might be right up there with a heaping bowl of poutine.

Seair has half-a-dozen different scenic flight options, all of which depart from the new downtown float plane terminal.  A quick, 20-minute tour of the downtown Vancouver skyline starts at $139 a person.  Or you can cruise up Howe Sound, scout out glaciers and land on an alpine lake ($399 a person).  They even have a Saltspring Island tour where you fly across the Strait of Georgia, land at Ganges Harbour, browse the shops, boutiques and farmers’ market and then fly back to the city ($479 a person).

It sounds like a lot of fun if it’s in your price range.  Just taking off and landing on the water in a tiny aircraft is probably an experience in itself.  There’s more information about all of the scenic flights on the website.

Has anyone taken a float plane tour of Vancouver?  What did you think of the experience?

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