Soaring flight fees: Almost $1,300 for a 'free' Aeroplan trip
Lynda Steele & Sandra Hermiston, CTV Vancouver
Published Monday, March 17, 2014 6:00AM PDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 18, 2014 2:34PM PDT
These days the taxes and surcharges added to airfares in Canada can cost more than the plane ticket itself and that means consumers looking to use loyalty rewards are paying big bucks to fly for “free”.
Elaine and Ben Kashani are always dreaming of their next travel adventure. They've been around the world on their Aeroplan points. In the past decade they’ve traveled to Cambodia, Vietnam, Italy, France, Brazil, Argentina, China and Japan.
When Elaine went to book their next trip to London, England she couldn’t believe how much her “free” Aeroplan trip was going to cost her.
"The taxes as an example on one of the tickets were almost $1,300, so for the two of us it would have been $2,600, which we have never paid anything close to that in the past on Aeroplan," she said.
At first Elaine thought Aeroplan's recent corporate restructuring was to blame for the higher fees. But Aeroplan told CTV Vancouver that was not the case. The company was just passing along the exact same fees, surcharges and taxes the airlines charge.
So why are those fees now so high? Consumer reporter Lynda Steele went digging for answers.
"You're looking at three times as much tax and fees paid by the consumer to fly out of Vancouver compared to Bellingham to go to the same destination." said Richard Job, head of airline contracting at Flight Centre.
For instance, if you wanted to fly from Vancouver to Las Vegas on WestJet, the base fare is $402. The assorted taxes add up to just over $137. Almost a fifth of that is GST paid to the federal government. When you add it all up, the Canadian passenger pays just under $540.
Compare that to the cost of a flight going to the same destination on Alaska Airlines, but leaving from Bellingham. The base fare is $218, about half the cost of the Canadian airfare. The taxes come to just over $41, 70 per cent lower than the taxes levied on the WestJet flight. The total fare to Las Vegas is just under $260, almost half the price of the Canadian fare.
"We'll literally see millions of passengers move across the border. That's actually not good for a lot of reasons. It's inconvenient for the travelers. It's really bad for the Canadian economy," said Mike Tretheway, aviation industry analyst.
Tune into CTV News at 6 Tuesday for Part 2 of this series on airline fees and learn where these fees and taxes are going and why they are so much higher here in Canada.