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Kenmore Air
A Kenmore Air seaplane is shown over Lake Union in Seattle. (Kenmore Air Photo)

High-speed train or ultra-high-speed hyperloop ground transportation may be years away along the corridor between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., but starting April 26, traveling between the two high-tech cities will get easier by air and water.

Seattle-based Kenmore Air and Vancouver’s Harbour Air announced Thursday that they’re launching a long-desired seaplane service connecting one city’s downtown to the other and boosting the opportunity for business, research and tourism between the two.

The trip, which is supposed to take just under an hour, will cost $285 one way. That’s $359 in Canadian dollars.

The move is being celebrated by Microsoft, which already has a large presence in the Canadian city. The drive by car from the company’s Redmond, Wash., campus is three hours — with often unpredictable border wait times.

Microsoft has been a leading voice on the need for high-speed travel between Seattle and Vancouver. The company kicked in $50,000 to supplement the state of Washington’s $300,000 budget to study a plan for fast trains. The British Columbia government also announced it would contribute $300,000 to a study of corridor service — which would extend to Portland, as well.

“This new direct seaplane route between Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., will be an important link in connecting the Cascadia Innovation Corridor,” Microsoft President Brad Smith said in a news release. “This association between two historic Pacific Northwest companies will accelerate cross-border business and collaboration for the entire region.”

At the Cascadia Innovation Corridor conference in Seattle last year, Smith said the goal is to create more opportunity and prosperity on both sides of the border. In touting high-speed rail at the Pacific NorthWest Economic Region’s 27th Annual Summit in Portland, he said, “Why not? … If we lived in Europe it would already be there.”

Getting the seaplane service going after years of talk appears to have been achieved with the addition of a new customs facility at the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre. Business In Vancouver reported Monday that a pilot program is being launched by the Canadian Border Services Agency to provide such a facility.

“With approximately 20,000 annual passengers currently traveling between Seattle and Victoria, we’re confident this new route will support the growing demand for further cross-border travel,” said Kenmore Air President Todd Banks. “Increasing cross-border collaboration has been top of mind for government, technology and business leaders alike, and we believe this route provides a fast, convenient and much needed solution.”

Kenmore Air, founded in 1946, is an iconic presence on and above Seattle’s Lake Union. Seaplanes taking off and landing are a routine sight, as the airline operates from a facility at the south end of the lake, just blocks from Amazon’s giant campus.

Amazon and its employees could also benefit from the new service. In September the tech giant announced that it was doubling its workforce in Vancouver from 1,000 to 2,000 people.

Harbour Air, founded in 1982, has grown from two planes to become the largest seaplane airline in North America.

The new service will offer daily flights, which can accommodate nine passengers, between Lake Union and Vancouver’s Coal Harbour. It will include additional air service to Kenmore Air’s base on Lake Washington. There’s no Wi-Fi onboard the aircraft.

Flight times and booking information are available at KenmoreAir.com/Destinations/Vancouver and HarbourAir.com/Seattle.

Update: More details from the airlines on the planned flight schedule and customs requirements:

  • The round-trip service will run twice daily, Monday-Friday, offering a one-hour flight time between the two cities. Initially, the morning flight will depart Lake Washington at 7:30 a.m. and Lake Union at 8 a.m., arriving in Coal Harbour at 9:05 a.m., returning from Coal Harbour at 9:30 a.m. There will also be an afternoon service, departing Lake Washington at 3:45 p.m. and Lake Union at 4:10 p.m., arriving in Coal Harbour at 5:15 p.m., returning from Coal Harbour at 5:40 p.m.
  • As an international flight, all travelers — regardless of age or citizenship — flying between the United States and Canada in either direction are required to present a current, valid passport book and will be subject to a customs inspection. Custom facilities are available onsite at Harbour Air’s downtown Vancouver terminal and Kenmore Air’s Seattle locations.
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