B.C. consumers flocking to U.S. Airports: study
June 13, 2013, Vancouver - The Consumers' Association of Canada (CAC) released polling today that shows B.C. air travellers are flocking to U.S. airports to catch flights because of better access to international destinations, putting further pressure on the Federal Government to end its protectionist policy regarding access of foreign carriers to the Canadian market.
"Canadian airports are woefully underserved by international carriers – and that is not because international carriers are not willing to fly here. Instead it is because the Federal Government has chosen protectionism over consumer choice and competition. Now we are seeing the logical outcome of that policy with British Columbians flocking to U.S. airports to catch direct flights. It is a new form of cross-border shopping driven by bad government policy," stated Bruce Cran, President.
The poll asked B.C. consumers to consider a scenario in which they need to travel to an overseas city not served by a Canadian airline. Given the choice of taking a flight from a Canadian airport to an international connecting airport and then a second flight to their ultimate destination, versus driving to a nearby U.S. airport that offers direct service to the overseas city, 39% chose the latter option.
"There are countless examples of international carriers that want to offer service to new destinations that are denied the right to fly to Canada and then set up operations in northern U.S. cities to serve the Canadian market, with perhaps no better example than Seattle. Canadians are sophisticated consumers and you cannot force them into making inconvenient travel choices when much better ones are within driving distance across the border," added Cran.
The polling results come on the heels of several studies that have looked at the number of Canadians driving to the U.S. to fly out airports there. While many of those studies have suggested cost is the motivating factor, the poll results show access to international destinations is also critical. Canada is competing with the U.S. for carrier and passenger traffic, and the U.S. has an open skies policy. Many carriers that want to serve Vancouver have instead been forced to fly to Seattle due to Federal Government access restrictions.
"It is ironic that some vested interests in Canadian aviation who have argued so strenuously for continued protectionism are inflicting severe damage on the Canadian airports that are at the heart of our aviation system, aided and abetted by the Federal Government. When it comes to aviation in Canada, you are truly entering the Bizarro World," stated Cran.
"Transport Canada should get an award from the Seattle Chamber of Commerce for driving so much business to that city over Vancouver through its policy of restricting access of foreign carriers to the Canadian market," added Cran.
The CAC wants the Federal Government to adopt a far more aggressive approach to air liberalization and allow foreign carriers that want to service Canada to do so.
The polling was conducted between January 31 and February 4, 2013 by Harris/Decima and involved telephone interviews with 1,015 Canadians.