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Holland America announces tour passengers will skip bus ride, fly Fairbanks to Dawson City

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Tourists travelling north with Holland America this summer will spend less time on the road between Fairbanks and Dawson City, Yukon, and more time in those cities.

The tour company has contracted with Whitehorse-based Air North to fly visitors between Fairbanks and Dawson from mid-May to September, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner (http://bit.ly/1mvr8VC) reported Monday.

Air North will make seven to nine flights a week between the cities. Only Holland America customers will be on the flights.

The flights will eliminate a grueling bus ride through hundreds of miles of remote Canada and interior Alaska. The flights are designed to give visitors more time in the communities, said Holland America marketing director Bill Fletcher, and less time in a motor coach.

About 15,000 visitors are expected to take advantage of the new flights, Fletcher said.

"We're really excited about modernizing this program for the future," he said. "These programs used to be kind of a long-haul sightseeing trip. . Where there's a great story to be told, being on the ground in the destinations is really important."

The flights will eliminate stops in Tok and the Canada border town of Beaver Creek. Visitors were served at those locations by Westmark Hotels and both have been closed.

Air North will carry passengers in Boeing 737-200 jets, which can use the gravel runways at Dawson, said Air North CEO Allan Moore.

The Dawson runway has weight restrictions for takeoffs and the jets will only be about half full with about 60 passengers when flying to Fairbanks. The aircraft will be "reasonably full" for the return trip, he said.

Air North and Holland America are discussing a 2015 partnership but have not made a deal final.

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Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com

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