Questions about air travel price-gouging over holidays with B.C. highways closed

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Concerns have been raised about rising airline prices, as British Columbians looking to see loved ones for the holidays face fewer options due to flood-damaged highways.

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Significant flooding washed away highways and infrastructure in November, meaning there are few options to drive now, so travelers are turning to flying as an alternative. However, travelers are getting higher prices.

For example, flying from Vancouver to Kamloops on December 21 and returning on December 28 is currently on sale for $1,144 on Air Canada and $1,298 on WestJet. It also includes a stop in Calgary.

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Those prices were shown on the Expedia.ca website on Tuesday afternoon.

On AirCanada.com, flights between Vancouver and Kamloops were selling for US$339 on Tuesday, December 21. Roughly $428.42 in Canadian dollars.

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A flight returning from Kamloops to Vancouver on 29 December (no one was available on 28 December) was selling for US$327 on Tuesday. Roughly $413.29 in Canadian dollars.

Both of those flights also include a stop in Calgary.

In total, it’s $853.89 on the Air Canda website.

In a statement to Granthshala News, Air Canada said it has added capacity in the BC interior markets, namely Kelowna and Kamloops, with an additional 1,500 seats to support transportation options.
“Fares were also limited in these markets,” the company said. “We also specifically added cargo capacity from Toronto to our YVR hub to support the critical economic supply chain through all cargo flights and large passenger aircraft.”

Air Canada said the December holiday period is the best time to travel and that its timetable was prepared in advance to meet demand.

“We continue to look at all possibilities to add capacity in fleet and resource-dependent markets,” the statement said.

B.C.’s minister of public safety, Mike Farnsworth, said Monday that there are concerns in the industry about price hikes.

“It’s a federally regulated industry,” he said.

“The challenge, of course, is twofold. One is the holidays. It’s the holiday season and prices are usually higher at this time of year. But we also want to make sure that, as much as possible, airlines have Has the capacity and capability to deal with demand in a way that doesn’t leave people paying exorbitant, exorbitant rents.”

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Travel expert Claire Newell told Granthshala News on Tuesday that while flight prices go up during the holidays, this year looks to be a “perfect storm.”

“We have people who are desperate to see family, that might not have seen them, in some cases, before the pandemic started and others, who probably need to get off from the interior (Vancouver airport), so I was expecting more flights to come into the system,” Newell said. “That we’ll see bigger aircraft or maybe more frequency in flights and I haven’t seen that.”

Newell said he’s seen a few flights from Vancouver to Kelowna costing as much as $800 each way, which is overpriced and could equate to traveling internationally.

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While high prices aren’t new in BC, it’s just terrible times, she said, because people don’t have the option of driving.

“For some people, it’s the perfect storm of a nightmare with the holidays just around the corner,” Newell said.

Meanwhile, the provincial government is advising people not to expect Highway 3 to reopen for non-essential travel.

Transportation Minister Rob Fleming was asked several times during a news conference on Monday whether changes were expected for the major route through southern BC that was heavily damaged by recent floods and landslides.

The province will continue to update the public, but the highway remains open only to essential vehicles, for now, he said, as repairs continue for a long time.

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“We are working with the transportation sector, including the airline industry, to look for additional flights to the interior of the province from Abbotsford Airport, Vancouver Airport, Victoria,” Fleming said on Monday.

Newell said the lifeline for tourism in the province are BC’s highways and with so many restrictions for driving this holiday season, it may not be the Christmas many people had planned.

Granthshala News has contacted WestJet and Air Canada for comment.

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