By SHANNON KELLY
It’s no secret that Canadians frequently fly out of the U.S. to save on airfare, and Parliament may finally be taking notice. A senate committee is urging Ottawa to eliminate the rent it charges federally owned airports, a cost that is passed on to travellers, and that it ultimately release its ownership of Canadian airports.
The report was frank, stating that the increasing trend of Canadians taking their transportation dollars south of the border is hurting the Canadian economy and that it’s the government’s fault. “Air travel in Canada is not structured by the government to be an economic enabler,” states the committee report, “rather, it is treated as source for public revenue. The result of this is that the Canadian air travel industry is not well positioned to compete in the future in an increasingly competitive global air travel market.”
It was noted that 85 per cent of passengers at the Plattsburgh International Airport in New York State (70 km from Montreal), for example, are Canadians.
The difference in airport costs at U.S. versus Canadian facilities is shocking: According to Air Canada data cited in the report, costs at four airports just south of the U.S.-Canada border are a whopping 229 per cent less per passenger.
Key final recommendations from the committee: That ground rents be initially reduced and then phased out, that federally owned airports be transferred to the hands of local airport authorities and that the federal government work with airport authorities to create forward-thinking policies for economic growth in Canadian air travel.
So, the burning question: Will Ottawa actually heed the advice? Or will our next flight to the west coast be out of Buffalo?