A new study by a travel agency has found that Canada has the most expensive international flights in the world and the sixth most expensive flights overall when domestic flights are also considered.
According to Czech Republic-based Kiwi.com, it costs Canadians an average of US$94.66 per 100 kms of international air travel on a full service airline and US$43.70 per 100 kms on a low-cost airline.
In contrast, the average cost for an international flight in the United States is just US$18.05 per 100 kms for a full-service airline and US$12.84 per 100 kms for a low-cost airline.
When both Canadian international and domestic air travel are factored together, the average industry cost comes to US$38.75.
However, when only domestic flights are examined, Canada ranked 68 out of 75 countries for cost, with full-service flights per 100 km coming at an average of US$8.47. In the United States, the average cost came to US$4.82.
A number of factors contribute to Canada’s sky-high costs for flying.
Air travel in Canada is heavily regulated from foreign competition to protect the duopoly held by Air Canada and WestJet, which means there are less incentives for airlines to compete and innovate.
The federal government owns the land that airports sit on and charges each local airport authority high rents, generating over CAD$300 million in revenue for the government annually. These costs are passed by the airports to the airlines and then to consumers.
There are high taxes and airport improvement charges on passengers. Major airports in Canada are independently and locally operated and generally do not rely on government funding for any expansion and retrofit projects.
Additionally, the airline industry in Canada does not enjoy significant economies of scale given Canada’s enormous geographic area and small population centres. Long distances between small destinations make for less efficient air travel when smaller aircraft are used or when a greater number of seats are empty.
A case in point, the cheapest international flight can be found in China where flights cost an average of US$2.84 per 100 kms.
The travel agency says its calculations were based on the average costs of flights from the country’s capital to up to five major cities within the country or a major city in a neighbouring country if no domestic flights were available. As for international flights, the costs were calculated based on travel from all international airports in each country to up to five international airport hubs.