Why Is It So Expensive To Fly in Canada?

DSC_0109.jpgIf you live in Canada, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. Many Canadians have spent more time travelling overseas rather than explore their own country based on cost alone. Depending on the time of year it can be more expensive to fly from Toronto to Vancouver than to fly to Europe.

A quick look at the cost to fly between Toronto and Vancouver (4360 km) compared to New York and Portland (4693 km — or 2916 miles for you crazy Americans) revealed almost a 30% price increase for the (slightly shorter) Canadian flight.

So what is going on here? Are Canadians just being fucked?

Well, it turns out there are a few factors that result in the perfect storm of sky-high air travel costs.

Demand — or Lack Thereof

DSC_0020Listen, Canada is FUCKING huge. And there really aren’t that many people who live here for how much land there is. As a result with the exception of a few flights between the three or four most populous cities there isn’t enough demand for a large number of flights and therefore not much room for competition between airlines. This is in start contrast to the situation in Europe or the United States where the high volume of flights between cities means that multiple airlines can operate and compete with one another, overall lowering costs to the traveller.

Astronomical Airport Fees

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Lack of demand isn’t the only culprit, however. A little digging revealed that ‘airport fees’ in the true north are among the highest in the world. A 2015 study ranked Canada 130th out of 138 countries in terms of taxes and charges imposed on airports. As you might expect, these costs are ultimately passed down to the consumer, resulting in higher ticket prices on average.

This is due in part to the government’s ownership of the land that Canadian airports sit on. Because of the de-federalization of airport management in 1992, the so-called Crown land is leased to private, non-profit companies that are required to pay rent to the government for use of said land. This rent alone can represent up to 12% of total airport revenues in some cases! In the 2014–2015 fiscal year alone Transport Canada collected 313 million dollars from Canadian airports. These lofty rent prices for the airports have been transferred to the airlines largely in the form of a ‘landing fee’ for all airlines landing at a given airport in Canada which is — you guessed it — passed on the consumer in the form of increased ticket prices.

Is It Justified?

So how mad should we be about this? Well, probably a little mad. It is in theory good for the country for the government to maintain control of the massive amounts of land and collect revenue from air travel in this country to prevent large private companies from profiting off of Canadian travellers. However, the obscene rent prices for airports has increased flight costs so much that many Canadians are either unable to travel, or instead opt to travel south of the border to take advantage of cheaper American flights. Obviously Canadians stand to benefit from lower travel costs that could translate into increased tourism within the country. In light of this, some experts believe that in order to remedy the situation, privatizing the airports and ending rent payments is absolutely necessary.

Either way, I do think it’s a shame that many Canadians have travelled around the world, but never explored their own country.


Do you have horror stories of travelling within Canada? Do you opt instead to travel outside of Canada due to obscene travelling costs?

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