Every Canadian that lives within a couple hours of the U.S. border knows that flying from an American airport is cheaper than a Canadian one – at least most of the time. We don’t really have any options in Alberta, mostly because all the cities that are within a few hours of the border suck. (I’m looking at you, Great Falls. More like Boring Falls.) But Toronto has Buffalo, Vancouver has Seattle and Montreal has, uh, Ottawa. Even folks from Windsor can fly out of Detroit, except for the fact they actually have to go to Detroit first.
Just how much money can someone save by flying out of an American airport? Take a look at the difference between flights on the same day between Seattle/Vancouver and various U.S. cities. They’re all for non-stop flights, since connections are for morons.
|Destination City||From Vancouver||From Seattle|
*There were no non-stop flights to Atlanta. That’s a flight with a layover in Salt Lake City.
Holy crap. That’s quite the difference. You could take a Greyhound bus from Vancouver to Seattle (I sure wouldn’t, but hear me out) for $14, take public transport to the Seattle airport, and still save enough flying out of Seattle to make the whole exercise worth your time.
I just ran similar numbers for the Toronto/Buffalo experiment. The difference in flights is about $100 each way, making this strategy not quite as effective as the Vancouver/Seattle results, but still maybe worth a $14 bus ticket and a few hours each way. Also, is every single bus ticket $14?
We’ve established that a) airplane rides are cheaper if you leave from an American airport and b) Nelson has altogether too much time on his hands. But why does this happen? How come Canada can dominate so much at hockey, curling and poutine, but suck so much in flying? It’s really pretty simple.
We have basically two airlines – Westjet and Air Canada. One of these airlines is my personal favorite, I won’t tell you which one, but it rhymes with Westjet. Whenever I research a domestic flight, I notice both airlines are pretty close to the same price. I just recently priced out flights to Vancouver, so I can go and creep on my internet girlfriend Young and Thrifty in person. The results? Both airlines were within $5 of each other. I can assure you that’s not by accident.
Most flights that go from a Canadian city to an American one are operated by a Canadian carrier, even though Expedia will often tell you different. I once booked a Delta flight to Las Vegas for $15 cheaper than the corresponding Westjet flight, even though they were THE SAME FREAKIN AIRPLANE. Westjet operates all the Delta flights, while Air Canada operates all the American Airlines flights. The airlines create the illusion of competition where none exists.
If there’s no competition, there’s no reason to cut rates. Westjet is currently expanding to routes that Air Canada previously owned, so Canadians are seeing a bit of a price break in those routes as Westjet tries to get market share. I’ve kept an eye on flights to New York City for years now, and thanks to Westjet’s attempt to establish a foothold on a new route, I got a decent rate.
The other reason for the increased prices is because you’re paying for U.S. customs to pat down your junk. Well, that and to keep Canadian airports running.
As every traveler has bitched about, your real ticket price is often 50% more expensive than the sticker price, thanks to all the fees and fuel surcharges and junk. Check out all the fees for a flight from Vancouver to Las Vegas:
|Canadian Airport Improvement Fee||$20.00|
|U.S.A. Transportation Tax||$16.81|
|U.S.A. Agriculture Fee||$5.03|
|U.S.A Immigration Fee||$7.05|
|Air Traveler’s Security Charge||$12.10|
|U.S.A. Federal Customs Fee||$5.54|
|Total Ticket Cost||$443.86|
Hot diggity, that’s a lot of fees. Is it just me, or do some of them seem to repeat themselves? There’s a federal customs fee and an immigration fee? They might as well call one of them “blatant tax grab fee,” right?
How about the same flight, except from Seattle to Vegas. Just how hosed does our American traveler get with fees?
|Taxes and Fees||$10.80|
* I just realized that both prices are different than the prices I used in my examples above. That’s because I just searched for the cheapest one-way fares on Expedia for the price, while I used Air Canada and Alaska Airlines’ websites to get a picture of the fees, since Expedia just rolls the fees into the price.
The difference in fees for just a single one way flight? $84.16. Us Canadians are getting some kind of screwed by these immigration fees. WE’RE GUESTS IN YOUR COUNTRY, DAMMIT. There’s an agriculture fee? WHAT IN THE HELL FOR? SERIOUSLY, SOMEBODY EXPLAIN THAT TO ME.
I better stop this line of discussion before a blood vessel in my brain explodes. Flying in Canada kinda sucks. The fees are worse than dead babies and there’s really no competition. But, what else are we supposed to do? Drive across this empty country? I’ll pay the fees.