Just as Canadians head into summer vacation mode comes a depressing study that painfully chronicles how much cheaper it is to fly in the U.S. or Europe than in Canada.
The Frontier Centre for Public Policy compared airline fares on similar-distance flights in all three jurisdictions and found that fares were the most expensive in Canada.
On a per-kilometre basis, in a comparison of five in-country flights in Canada and five in-country flights in the U.S. and Europe, Canadian air travel is significantly more expensive, according to the report.
For instance, someone could book all five Canadian flights, travel a total return distance of 5368 km and pay $1,499.62, all taxes and fees included.
Booking all five U.S. flights of a similar distance would cost $934.72.
Travelling on five selected European flights would be dramatically cheaper — only $525.72 for a similar distance.
Even if you remove the taxes and fees, the U.S. and Europe still come out ahead, notes the report.
In the comparison of cross-border fares, there was little difference in the total cost in North America, regardless of whether the flights originated in Canada or the U.S.
For example, flights from five Canadian cities to five U.S. destinations with a total return distance of 9,662 km cost $2,034.21 if the return trips originated in Canada and $1971.99 if those return flights originated in the U.S.
However, five European cross-border flights (Munich- Rome, Dublin-Berlin, Vienna- Athens, Prague-Barcelona and London-Paris) would generate a total return distance of 9,997 km but cost only $941.93.
Frontier Centre research director Mark Milke did the cost comparisons based on airline fares from kayak.com with a 27-day advance booking, leaving June 29 and returning July 5.
Read and weep. A passenger in Canada flying from Winnipeg to Regina would pay $373.35 on Air Canada, Milke found when checking fares earlier this month.
In contrast, a similar-distance flight between Milwaukee and Des Moines would be substantially cheaper, at $207.14. A traveller in Europe would be the real winner, able to fly between London and Edinburgh for as little as $24.48 on Ryanair.
"Some European fares are likely loss leaders (designed to sell seats that would otherwise be empty) but their existence highlights the lack of open skies in North America, where such bargains cannot occur," writes Milke.
He calls for an open skies policy, or cabotage, which would permit foreign carriers to fly domestic routes.
"The lack of an EU-style open skies agreement between … the United States, Canada and the EU means all consumers lose," he writes.
Calgary-based aviation analyst Rick Erickson supports cabotage but only if it’s reciprocal.
Even if cabotage was permitted, it would be a challenge getting slot times at airports because Canadian carriers control so much of the infrastructure, he says.
And if you think the airlines are gouging you, think again.
They’re barely climbing out of the recession. It’s the government that’s bleeding you — through all those taxes added onto basic airfare.
Ottawa got out of the airport operation business years ago and they haven’t given a nickel to our major airports since.
But they still squeeze about half a billion dollars a year out of airports and passengers for rent and taxes.
"(The aviation industry) is looked upon as a golden goose and they milk it for everything they can," says Erickson.
Every time you board a plane, you’re paying to feed insatiable government greed. Our MPs, of course, fly for free.