Nestled between the end of March break and the beginning of summer, April is often one of the best times to fly across the country for cost-conscious travellers. And next week, in particular, will be the cheapest for domestic flights, according to data from travel comparison site Kayak.com.
Here are the cheapest places to fly to next week, according to the Kayak’s research*:
Vancouver to Kelowna – median airfare is $124
Edmonton to Abbotsford – median airfare is $173
Winnipeg to Edmonton – median airfare is $219
Edmonton to Kelowna – median airfare is $242
Edmonton to Vancouver – median airfare is $272
“The median roundtrip airfare for the month around $386, 44 per cent lower than December and 25 per cent lower than July, two of the most expensive travel months,” said Steve Sintra, Canada country manager at Kayak.
Don’t worry, though, if you can’t hop on a plane in the next couple of days. The price of domestic flights this summer is down seven per cent compared to last, according to Kayak. And this may be only the beginning of a new era of cheaper travel for Canadians.
That’s because this may be the time when so-called ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCC) finally manage to take off in this country.
“The arrival of new low-cost carriers to the market could be having an impact on driving down prices,” along with the major carriers adding new routes, said Sintra.
Kelowna, B.C.-based Flair Airlines has been flying in and out of the cities where Kayak is seeing significant price drops for the summer, including Edmonton, Abbotsford, B.C., Hamilton, Ont., and Winnipeg, said Sintra. And Swoop Airlines, WestJet’s new low-cost carrier, will be flying similar routes starting in June.
WATCH: Flair Airlines offers travel options for budget-conscious Canadians
Here, the domestic destinations that make for the best deals this summer, according to Kayak**:
Edmonton – prices down 40 per cent; median airfare is $485
Abbotsford, B.C. – prices down 33 per cent; median airfare is $396
Winnipeg – prices down 30 per cent; median airfare is $485
Hamilton, Ont. – prices down 25 per cent; median airfare is $445
Moncton, N.B. – prices down 19 per cent; median airfare is $518
Those price drops seem in line with what happened when budget airline Oasis Hong Kong started servicing the Vancouver-Hong Kong route in 2007, competing with both Air Canada and Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong’s flagship carrier.
“Overall, average fares dropped 30 per cent resulting in the local market size increasing by 45 per cent,” said John Korenic, adjunct professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.
WATCH: Swoop is WestJet’s solution to ultra-low fares
Although Oasis Hong Kong, a long-haul carrier, isn’t your typical, regional no-frills airlines, it forced down prices much like ULCCs do. It not only offered cheap fares but creates new demand for air travel, which put further pressure on prices, Korenic said. The new demand came from people who wouldn’t have considered travelling at higher prices.
The business model behind ULCCs is simple: Offer very low base airfares but charge for virtually everything else. Discount airlines will take you from here to there at very low cost, but you’ll have to pay for things like carry-on luggage or having food or water on-board.
Another way in which ULCCs cut costs include squeezing more passengers into a plane – think, 75 cm of legroom instead of 85 cm and non-reclining seats. They also tend to fly only one type of carrier, so they don’t have to train pilots and crew on different kinds of planes, Korenic said. They also often use secondary airports, which charge lower landing and terminal fees, among other things.
Oasis Hong Kong didn’t perfectly fit the ULCC model, but its destiny resembled that of many budget airlines that tried to gain ground in Canada before it. It went into liquidation in 2008, shortly after its foray into the Vancouver market.
But while Oasis’ fate had much to do with soaring fuel prices, the quick demise of regional ULCC in this country has long been a purely Canadian story. In Europe, Asia and the U.S., budget airlines have thrived, Korenic said.
Since Canada raised the foreign ownership limit on Canadian airlines from 25 per cent to 49 per cent, though, the concept of no-frill flying in this country got a new lease on life.
Getting an airline off the ground takes $50 million to $150 million, Korenic said. “In Canada, it’s difficult to raise money, especially in this industry.”
Now, though, the budget airline upstarts are piling it. In addition to Flair Air and Swoop, Canada Jetlines and Enerjet’s Fly Too are also waiting in the wings.
Canada, pack your bags.
*All data is based on median airfares from Kayak.com’s internal database and is intended to be used as a guide. Travel dates are Monday, April 23 through Monday, April 30, and search dates are April 1, 2018 through April 16, 2018. Prices may vary.
**Travel dates are May 25, 2018 – Sept. 3, 2018, and search dates are Feb. 21, 2017 – Feb. 21, 2018. All flights considered are economy, round-trip. To compare year-over-year findings, Kayak considered searches from Feb. 21, 2016 – Feb. 21, 2017 for travel between May 25, 2017 – Sept. 3, 2017.
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