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November 30, 2021

Canadians fly out of U.S. border airports in record numbers

Earlier this year, we reported on the staggering number of Canadian who are turning their backs on domestic airports and crossing the border to take advantage of the gap between Canadian and U.S. airfares.

US_Airport_Security With three-quarters of this country's population living within roughly 160 kilometres of the Canada-U.S. border, Canadians regularly nip across to save money and avoid hassles with airport security since they’re flying domestically inside the U.S. instead of coming from abroad.

But the extent of the current exodus is unprecedented. The number of one-way trips made by Canadians at 14 key U.S. airports hit a record 4.6 million in 2009, according to a recent study by the Globe and Mail.

Despite surging levels of air travel worldwide, annual passenger traffic at Canadian airports has actually declined 3 per cent on routes between Canada and the United States over the past 10 years.

The major factors driving Canada's sky-high fares are the direct and indirect charges the government levies on airports and their customers.

Ottawa charges millions of dollars in rent on the federally owned land that major airports operate on; it also imposes security charges, fuel excise taxes and sales taxes. The various levies and charges have steadily risen in recent years and now account for up to 70 per cent of the total fare on domestic flights, according to the Globe.

Low-cost carriers such as JetBlue of New York and Denver-based Frontier Airlines say they will consider entering Canada if Ottawa were to scrap airport rent, allowing airports to lower landing fees. But that doesn’t seem to be on anybody’s to-do list just now.

Until then, it seems trips to Buffalo, Bellingham and Burlington will continue to be the norm for many travellers.

Have you flown out of a U.S. airport recently? Was it worthwhile? How do you need to save before you’ll make the cross-border trip?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...