Do we really want government policy to increase the number of air travellers? Is Canada better off exporting congestion and infrastructure costs to the U.S.?

Canadian Airports Council … in a report titled One of Our Airports is Missing.

“The reality is that Canada and the U.S. have divergent approaches to air transportation and its resulting economic benefits. One can endlessly debate the better approach, but the reality is that Canadian aviation and other businesses are at an unsustainable competitive disadvantage,” the report’s authors wrote.  [….]

In Toronto and Vancouver, an average of 22 per cent of U.S.-bound passengers chose to drive to an American airport for their trips last year instead of flying from their hometowns, the council’s study shows. In other cities, a much larger percentage of traffic is being siphoned, including from Thunder Bay, where an estimated 55 per cent of U.S.-bound fliers opt for flights at Minnesota airports, including Canadians who drive six hours to Minneapolis.

Transport Canada argues that it’s treating the aviation sector fairly, and it’s up to airlines and airports to become more competitive.  [….]

For consumers in Toronto and Vancouver, flying from the United States has become a no-brainer for leisure trips. The airfare savings are huge for trips to places such as Florida, Nevada, Arizona, California and even Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean. There isn’t hesitation to book from U.S. terminals, even after factoring in gasoline for the drive across the border and, in some cases, a night’s hotel stay near the American airport.  [….]

Ottawa, however, is unmoved by the complaints.

“Airport rent represents a fair return to taxpayers for the economic opportunity provided to airport authorities to manage airport operations,” Transport Canada spokeswoman Maryse Durette said in a statement Tuesday. “In 2005, total rent was reduced from $13-billion to $5-billion over the remaining 50 years or so of the leases. Under the revised formula, rent is determined by a progressive, revenue-based formula.”

Ms. Durette also played down the effect of rent on airfares. “Every airport authority benefited from the revised formula. Airport rent represents less than 1 per cent of the cost of a ticket and is not likely to be a key factor in a traveller’s decision to choose a U.S. airport over a Canadian airport,” she said.

Canadians flocking to U.S. airports in search of cheap fares |Brent Jang | March 21, 2012 | The Globe and Mail at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/canadians-flocking-to-us-airports-in-search-of-cheap-fares/article2375888/.

Canadians flocking to U.S. airports in search of cheap fares - The Globe and Mail