When news of single-digit airline tickets in Europe started to float across the pond, it seemed the same low-cost carrier deals would never materialize in Canada. But now, a growing number of ultra-low-cost carriers (ULCC) are taking off, and they’re making travel, both international and national, a lot more accessible.
“For whatever reason, it took a long time for these options to be available in Canada, which is strange because it’s one of the most well-travelled nations,” says Leigh Barnes, Intrepid Travel’s director of North America.
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The 2017 Flight Price Index compiled by Kiwi.com ranks Canada the 65th (out of 80) most affordable countries to fly out of — which is to say, it’s not very affordable at all.
“There are a number of reasons it has taken these low-cost airlines so long to come to Canada,” Barnes says, citing the size of the country versus our population, as well as the fact that many Canadians simply travel across the border into the U.S. to take advantage of their low-cost carriers.
It’s also due to Canada’s Open Skies agreements with other countries, which lift limits on airlines that are allowed to operate here. Canada has 18 agreements with other countries, while the U.S. has more than 120, Tae Oum, a professor emeritus at UBC’s Sauder School of Business who focuses on international air transportation, told Global News.
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But it’s not that there’s a lack of interest in ULCCs.
“People want to get out and connect with the world around them, and these new airlines are a powerful tool in job creation,” Barnes says. “People are OK with the inconveniences of this type of travel, like paying for checked baggage and onboard refreshments, if it means they’ll have more money to spend on their vacation.”
He says it takes a little more research and organization, but the savings are significant if you learn little tricks like printing your boarding pass ahead of time, travelling light and eating before getting on the plane.
If you’re looking to book your holiday travel or want to plan a vacation for 2018, take a look at the deals offered by these ultra-low-cost carriers.
Flair Airlines (currently flying)
The Kelowna-based domestic low-cost carrier recently announced it will be expanding to the international airports in Toronto, Vancouver and Kelowna starting mid-December. Formerly NewLeaf, the airline claims it reduced the cost of airfare in the markets they serve by 23 per cent.
Wow Air (currently flying)
Launched in Canada in 2015, Wow is an Iceland-based airline that offers ultra-low fares from Toronto and Montreal to a number of European destinations. Tickets are as low as $129.99 for a one-way flight to Reykjavik ($159.99 from Montreal), and $199.99 to London, Paris and Tel Aviv.
Swoop (flying in summer 2018)
WestJet’s new low-cost airline, Swoop, will start selling flights in early 2018 and will take to the skies by the summer, although its destinations are not yet known. What we do know is the aircrafts will have more seats (which means less legroom), and the price of a ticket will get you a seat and not much else. Everything from refreshments to luggage will come at an additional cost.
Primera Air (flying May 2018)
The latest entree to the Canadian market, Denmark- and Latvia-based Primera will launch year-round routes from Toronto to London (Stansted), Birmingham and Paris starting in spring 2018. The fares will start at $199.
Jetlines (flying June 1, 2018)
Flying out of Hamilton and Waterloo, Ont., Jetlines will start with domestic destinations, and within six months will expand to include Florida and Mexico. The company CEO said they aim to keep fares to under $100.
With files from Jesse Ferreras