Canada’s closed skies

Canadian and U.S. airlines are limited to cross-border runs


Irish discount airline Ryanair is advertising flights from London to Frankfurt (Hahn) for the equivalent of about $11, plus fees and taxes. There’s a few catches: one checked bag can cost an extra $38 and the small Hahn airport is over an hour away from the German financial centre by bus.

It’s the kind of bargain we don’t see in Canada. A recent study by Winnipeg’s Frontier Centre for Public Policy found Canada has higher average airfares than both Europe and the United States. The culprit? Relatively little competition. In Europe, airlines can fly wherever they want thanks to a NAFTA-style aviation agreement. That’s not the case in North America, where Canadian and U.S. airlines are limited to cross-border runs. But don’t hold your breath waiting for the skies to open up. Protectionism runs deep in the U.S. airline industry and Ottawa won’t cede the Canadian market without getting something in return.

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