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Cross border air travel shopping a national phenomenon

March 21, 2012, Toronto - The Canadian Airports Council released the findings of its national study on the impact of cross border shopping of air travel.  The study indicates some 4.8 million passengers are choosing U.S. border airports to travel, a growing phenomenon that occurs from east to west across Canada.


March 21, 2012
Carey Fredericks

"From New Brunswick to the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, Canada's airports are losing travellers to airports in U.S. border states due to lower cost tickets," said CAC Small Airports Caucus Chair Bernard LeBlanc, also president and CEO of one of the affected border airports, Saint John Airport. "The reasons for the cost differential are numerous, but an important element is that governmental fiscal approaches to aviation in Canada put us at a cost disadvantage."

In its study, the CAC looked at ticket prices in a handful of U.S. leisure markets in which some of the heaviest competition from U.S. airports exists.  The total ticket cost per passenger can be notably higher out of a Canadian airport compared to a nearby border airport in the U.S.  Included in the additional cost are the Air Travellers Security Charge, Harmonized Sales Tax, the hidden cost of airport rent paid by airports to the federal government and the navigation and airport improvement fees paid to fund infrastructure."

"Canada's approach to aviation infrastructure for the past 20 years has been predicated on the idea that the industry should be financially self-sufficient.  We achieved this and without taxpayer support Canada has a modern system of airports able to support Canadian traffic demands and economic growth," said CAC Large Airports Caucus Chair and President and CEO of Aéroports de Montréal Jim Cherry.   "However Canada's aviation sector today is less cost competitive and Canadians are voting with their feet.  We welcome the opportunity to engage with government on ways to continue to be financially self-sufficient while ensuring government policy for aviation is able to promote our industry for the next 20 years."

The findings were released at "One of Our Airports is Missing!" a one-day forum in downtown Toronto that gathered leaders from aviation, business and government to better understand the extent of the cross border shopping, put it into an international context, and candidly discuss creative solutions.  The lost traffic represents a "missing airport" about the size of Ottawa International Airport.

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"When we think about a 'missing airport' of nearly five million Canadians flying out of the U.S., we are talking about thousands of potential jobs for Canadians, and millions in potential wages and economic output," said CAC Cross Border Shopping Working Group Chair andVancouver Airport Authority Director, Aviation Marketing  John Korenic.  "Our U.S. airports and air carrier counterparts compete vigorously for this business, and we don't knock Canadian air travellers for taking advantage of it.  But it would be great to bring this business back to Canada.  I'd like be able say one day that we found our missing airport."