The closest city to the Canadian Rockies is Calgary, Alberta, 128 kilometers (80 miles) east of Banff. Vancouver, British Columbia’s largest city, is a major gateway to the mountains for international travelers. It lies on Canada’s West Coast, 830 kilometers (515 miles) west of Banff. Edmonton, 360 kilometers (224 miles) east of Jasper, also has an international airport. Even though Vancouver is a lot farther from the Canadian Rockies than Calgary, it is a popular starting point, as the trip across British Columbia by rail, bus, or car is spectacular.
Canada’s national airline, Air Canada (604/688-5515 or 888/247-2262, www.aircanada.com) is one of the world’s largest airlines. It offers direct flights to Calgary and Vancouver from all major Canadian cities, as well as from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver, Phoenix, Houston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas/Fort Worth, New York, and Orlando.
From Europe, Air Canada flies directly from London and Frankfurt to Vancouver and Calgary, and from other major European cities via Toronto. From the South Pacific, Air Canada operates flights from Sydney and in alliance with Air New Zealand from Auckland and other South Pacific islands to Honolulu and Los Angeles, where passengers change to an Air Canada plane for the flight to Vancouver. Asian cities served by direct Air Canada flights to Vancouver include Beijing, Nagoya, Osaka, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei, and Tokyo. Air Canada’s flights originating in the South American cities of Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Lima, and Bogotà are routed through Toronto, where you’ll need to change planes for either Calgary or Vancouver.
Similar in concept to Southwest Airlines, WestJet (604/606-5525 or 800/538-5696, www.westjet.com) has daily flights to its Calgary hub, as well as to Vancouver and Edmonton from across Canada as far east as St. John’s, Newfoundland.
From the United States
Air Canada offers the most flights into Calgary and Vancouver from the United States, but one or both of the cities are also served by the following U.S. carriers: Alaska Airlines (800/252-7522, www.alaksaair.com) from Anchorage and Los Angeles; American Airlines (800/433-7300, www.aa.com) from Chicago and Dallas; Continental Airlines (800/231-0856, www.continental.com) from its Houston hub and New York (Newark); Delta (800/221-1212, www.delta.com), with summer-only flights from Atlanta and Salt Lake City; Horizon Air (800/547-9308, www.horizonair.com) from nearby Seattle; Northwest Airlines (800/225-2525, www.nwa.com) from Detroit, Indianapolis, Memphis, and Minneapolis; and finally United Airlines (800/241-6522, www.united.com) from Chicago, Denver, San Francisco, and Seattle.
In addition to Air Canada’s flights to Calgary and Vancouver, British Airlines (800/247-9297, www.britishairlines.com) also flies this route daily. Air Canada flights between Vancouver and Continental Europe are routed through Toronto, but KLM (800/447-4747, www.klm.nl) has daily nonstop flights to Calgary and Vancouver from Amsterdam, and Lufthansa (800/563-5954, www.lufthansa.com) has a daily flight from Frankfurt to Calgary.
From Australia and New Zealand
Qantas (604/279-6611, www.qantas.com.au) flies to Vancouver from Sydney; flights originating in Melbourne and Brisbane are routed through Los Angeles. Air New Zealand (800/663-5494, www.airnewzealand.com) operates in alliance with Air Canada to either Calgary or Vancouver, with a variety of interesting options, including stops in South Pacific destinations like Nandi (Fiji). Air Pacific (800/227-4446, www.airpacific.com) offers flights from points throughout the Pacific to Honolulu and then on to Vancouver.
Vancouver is the closest West Coast gateway to Asia, being more than 1,200 kilometers (746 miles) closer to Tokyo than Los Angeles. This and the city’s large Asian population mean that it is well served by carriers from across the Pacific. In addition to Air Canada’s multiple Asian destinations, Vancouver is served by: Air China (800/685-0921, www.airchina.com) from Beijing; ANA (888/422-7533, www.ana.co.jp) from Osaka and Tokyo in affiliation with Air Canada; Cathay Pacific (604/606-8888, www.cathaypacific.com) twice daily from Hong Kong; Japan Airlines (800/525-3663, www.jal.co.jp) from Tokyo; Korean Air (800/438-5000, www.koreanair.com) from Seoul; Philippine Airlines (800/435-9725, www.philippineairlines.com) from Manila; and Singapore Airlines (800/663-3046, www.singaporeair.com) from Singapore via Seoul. For the short hop between Vancouver and Calgary on Air Canada, expect to pay around $150 extra each way.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition