COLUMN: Flying friendly skies means a detour

NANAIMO – Costs of flying in Canada send travellers flocking to the U.S.

Glancing at CTV British Columbia News on the web, I noticed a poll question that has huge implications for air travel including the plans WestJet has for flying out of Nanaimo Airport.

Bellingham International Airport saw 61,402 people fly out in March, surpassing the old record of 55,407 set in July 2012.

CTV’s web poll asks: Would you consider driving to Bellingham to save money on a flight?

Been there, done that.

In fact, we were two of the 61,402 passengers who used Bellingham for our vacation to Edmonton in early March.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am a proud Canadian and do my best to shop in Canada, B.C., Vancouver Island and Nanaimo as much as I can.

But, when it comes to air travel, especially within Canada, those in charge of the carriers need to give their heads a shake.

For my wife and I to fly from Comox to Edmonton return, it was going to cost us approximately $900.

By cashing in some Alaska Airlines  points, it cost the two of us $125 to fly from Bellingham (change planes in Seattle) to Edmonton return.

So even when you add in $160 return for B.C. Ferries (don’t get me started on that) a night in a hotel in Bellingham and $38 to park our car for a week, I figure we’re still nearly $500 in the black compared to flying out of Comox.

It caused a little confusion at the border when the guard asked us our purpose for entering the U.S.

“To drive to Bellingham and fly to Edmonton to see our new grandson,” I said.

He gave us a puzzled look and “Edmonton …???”

“Alberta,” I replied

“Why would you do that?” he asked.

We were so pleased to be saving $500 we couldn’t wait to give him the good news and at the same time slam the Canadian system.

“I guess I would do the same thing,” he said. “Have a good trip.”

We had a similar experience in Edmonton with a Canadian Border Services officer, and she also agreed it sounded like smart way to travel.

On a side note, it wasn’t just air travel costs in the States that blew us away.

Reaching the hotel in Bellingham, we walked to a Pizza Hut for supper and got a medium pizza for takeout.

With tax, it was around $11. No coupon necessary, no gimmicks, no nothing – $11.

The last time we got a large pizza and 10 breadsticks in Nanaimo, it came to $35 and change.

These people who say Canadians are too polite and will just take a shafting from our own governments and businesses are on to something.

But, back to air costs.

I imagine Canadian travellers from the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley are nothing new to the folks in Bellingham. The hop over the border for a cheap flight would be nothing to them.

But when it’s worth the while of Vancouver Islanders to eat the cost of the ferry ride and a hotel, that’s got to cause a little concern for the airline folks in Comox and especially Nanaimo.

Sure WestJet’s plans to fly into Calgary begin with some bargain prices, but it won’t be long before they creep up to Comox prices.

They have to. We don’t have the population to support anything else.

If I’m wrong, I’ll be the first to apologize. And if they ever fly into Edmonton for a couple hundred bucks return for two, we will be the first in line.

But until then, I’ll fly the skies that are friendliest to my pocketbook.

It’s not the way I want to treat Canadian companies, but then again, they don’t seem to mind reaching into my pocketbook and relieving me of my hard earned cash.

 

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