Trip Preview: Old Prop Hunting in Yellowknife on the Way to Europe

My most recent trip was meant to be a simple visit to Europe to try some airline products I haven’t reviewed before and spend some time with my family. Instead, it turned into an (at least in theory) around-the-Northern-Hemisphere adventure with a few days in Yellowknife in the north of Canada.

The trip allowed me not only to try a few different airline products, lounges, and hotels I haven’t reviewed before but also to spend some time with two fascinating airlines operating in some of the world’s harshest conditions (at least during winter time) – Buffalo Airways and Air Tindi.

Continue reading to see how the trip came to be in its final form and what reviews and other articles you can expect to come out in the coming weeks or months depending on how fast I manage to put them all together.

Yellowknife Trip
A simple trip to Europe turned “around the world.”


In 2021, I took advantage of an incredible Finnair deal – the airline was selling enough points for four one-way tickets in business class between Europe and the US/Asia for just over 2,000 EUR total. What is more, it came with status points too, giving me a Finnair Gold (oneworld Sapphire) status valid until the end of this year.

Fast forward to 2023, and I still had enough points for one ticket left in my account. Wanting to try Finnair’s new Air Lounge business class seat, I kept monitoring business class award availability between Europe and Tokyo which is extremely difficult to come by these days.

Luckily, some seats showed up in both directions for travel in mid-May. Without much thinking, I booked a one-way from Vienna to Tokyo via Helsinki on one of the available days. In addition to 80,000 points, I also paid 47.62 EUR in taxes and fees. I was lucky with the timing as not long after I got home from my trip, Finnair devalued the redemption making it cost 95,000 points and about 100 EUR more in fees.

Finnair A350 Business Class
Finnair A350 business class.
Finnair A320 Business Class
Finnair A320 business class.

As mentioned in the introduction, the original plan was to simply make my way to Europe, ideally on a product I haven’t flown on before. While searching for flights between Japan and various European airports, though, I run into an option that took this trip in a completely unexpected direction.

Around the time I was looking to book my flights, WestJet was about to start flights from Calgary to Tokyo Narita and had some attractive fares. So attractive, in fact, that a flight from Tokyo Narita to London via Calgary showed up as one of the cheaper options to get to Europe. Seeing this option sparked an idea in my head – maybe I can spend a few days in Canada before making my way to Europe.

Then I remembered seeing some coverage of Buffalo Airways – an airline based in Yellowknife made famous thanks to a six-season reality show Ice Pilots NWT. I also remembered my past idea of flying on an Air Tindi Dash 7. At that point, I quickly checked WestJet’s one-way fare from Tokyo to Yellowknife and, after seeing it was a very reasonable 514 USD, I decided to get in touch with both of the airlines to see if I could cover their operations in Yellowknife. With the answers being yes in both cases, it was decided – I would be heading from Japan to Europe the eastbound way.

WestJet Boeing 787 Economy Class Cabin
WestJet 787 economy class.
WestJet 737 Approaching Yellowknife.
Approaching Yellowknife.

At that point, the only question was how to get from Yellowknife to Vienna.

After considering several options, I eventually booked an economy class ticket from Calgary to Vienna via Frankfurt on an Air Canada 787 and Austrian A320neo – both aircraft I hadn’t flown on before. I booked it using 35,000 Aegean miles I had from a few years back (another bunch of miles I bought during a promotion) and paid an additional 116.82 EUR in taxes and fees.

The last gap in the itinerary was between Yellowknife and Calgary. Given the timing of my flight from Calgary to Frankfurt, I basically had two options – either taking a non-stop WestJet flight or flying with Air Canada via Edmonton. To make things simple… Just kidding. To avoid flying on WestJet for the second time and fly on some new airline/aircraft type combinations, I chose Air Canada.

At 370.78 CAD, the ticket was one of the more expensive portions of the trip. Especially considering the relatively short distance that was covered.

Air Canada Express CRJ-900
Air Canada Express CRJ-900.
Air Canada Express Dash 8-400
Air Canada Express Dash 8-400.
Air Canada 787-9 Economy Class
Air Canada 787-9 economy class
Austrian A320neo
Austrian A320neo.

Prior to departure, I also placed a 45 CAD bid to upgrade from Economy to Premium on my WestJet flight from Calgary to Yellowknife.

Not only did the bid go through but I was also lucky as the aircraft was changed from one with regular economy class seats with blocked middle seats to an aircraft with proper business class recliner seats. That equipment change was, in fact, what in the end made the upgrade worth it considering that no proper meal was served on the flight.

WestJet 737-700 Premium Class
WestJet 737-700 Premium Class.

With that, the final itinerary looked as follows (I will be reviewing all of the flights):

Additionally, courtesy of Air Tindi, I was also able to fly on the airline’s Dash 7 from Yellowknife to Lutselk’e and back and Twin Otter from Yellowknife to Wekweeti and back.

Yellowknife Trip Map
Final itinerary. (Map generated using Great Circle Mapper)


Prior to departing Tokyo Narita, I did some lounge hopping using Priority Pass. First, I visited Terminal 1’s IASS Lounge and KAL Lounge – two lounges I reviewed in the past. I also visited one of the two ANA Lounges that can be accessed with Priority Pass now.

I will be writing a review of the ANA Lounge and updating my article about the Priority Pass options at Narita.

IASS Executive Lounge Narita
IASS Executive Lounge at Narita.
KAL Lounge Narita
KAL Lounge at Narita.
ANA Lounge
ANA Lounge noodles.

While Premium Class on WestJet doesn’t come with lounge access, I was able to visit WestJet’s Elevation Lounge in Calgary due to it being a part of the Priority Pass network. Yellowknife Airport doesn’t have a lounge. That said, on the way from Yellowknife to Vienna, I stopped by another three lounges:

WestJet Elevation Lounge Calgary Bar
WestJet Elevation Lounge at Calgary Airport.
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge Edmonton
Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge at Edmonton Airport.
Aspire Lounge Calgary
Aspire Lounge at Calgary Airport.
Lufthansa Panorama Lounge Frankfurt
Lufthansa Panorama Lounge at Frankfurt Airport.

Lastly, on the way back from Vienna to Tokyo, I finally had a chance to visit Vienna Lounge – a new lounge in Vienna Airport’s renovated Terminal 1.

I also briefly stopped by a packed Finnair Lounge in the Schengen part of Helsinki Airport before making my way through immigration and into the airline’s business class lounge in the non-Schengen area. I reviewed the latter in the past but might update the review.

Vienna Lounge
Vienna Lounge at Vienna Airport.
Finnair Schengen Lounge
Finnair Lounge (Schengen) at Helsinki Airport.
Finnair Lounge Non-Schengen
Finnair Business Lounge (non-Schengen) at Helsinki Airport.


In terms of accommodation, since in Europe I stayed with my family, I only needed to find places to stay in Calgary and Yellowknife.

I looked at a number of airport hotels in Calgary but eventually decided to go with Holiday Inn Express Airport-Calgary just off the southern side of the airport, which I booked for 20,000 IHG points. The hotel’s location was perfect for doing some plane spotting at Calgary Airport during my layover.

In Yellowknife, I went with the cheapest option – Aurora Bayside Inn – which cost 377.53 CAD for the three nights I was in the city. While the accommodation was no frills and there were “proper” hotels too, I didn’t find the price difference to be worth it.

Holiday Inn Express & Suites Airport-Calgary
Holiday Inn Express & Suites Airport-Calgary.
Aurora Bayside Inn Yellowknife
Aurora Bayside Inn.


In addition to reviews of the flights, lounges, and accommodations mentioned above, I will also be writing about plane spotting along Calgary Airport’s southern perimeter as well as in Yellowknife.

I will cover Buffalo Airways and Air Tindi – the two reasons behind the visit to Yellowknife – in great detail too.

Buffalo Airways
Buffalo Airways.
Air Tindi
Air Tindi.


What was originally meant to be a fairly simple review trip/family visit turned into a much more complicated trip around the Northern Hemisphere. In fact, it turned into my first major aviation-focused trip since the start of the pandemic. Needless to say, it was great to be “back in the game.”

Now it’s time to sit down and write, write, and write. There are more than a dozen articles from this trip waiting to be produced.

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