Canadians travelling south of the border to travel

Courtesy of
The Buffalo International Airport. Courtesy of

Driving down the Gardiner Expressway, you might catch a glimpse of an electronic billboard displaying the words “Buffalo fares” for all those who live in Toronto. Beginning in October, the Buffalo International Niagara Airport announced that they would be working on a big advertising push in the GTA to entice more Canadians to take the drive slightly south of the border.

According to Pascal Cohen, the manager of aviation business development, a combination of lower prices, shorter wait times and flights through all types of weather are enough to make approximately 46 per cent of their 5.5 million customers Canadian. Nonetheless, they are still working for more. Their target is southern Ontarians, mostly families looking to fly down south to Florida or even east towards California – although they are currently advertising their business flights as well – who don’t want to pay extra hundreds of dollars in various taxes for the same flight.

This strategy isn’t exactly a new one; in fact in most major Canadian cities you can find the closest major American airport advertising to them, and most Canadians taking the extra time to save money. The websites of most of these airports, including Buffalo International, have sections meant strictly for Canadians: the border wait times, prices for limos or shuttles if they don’t want to drive, where to exchange money as well as the possibilities of how much money they can save.

However, Buffalo International isn’t always the best choice, something that Toronto Pearson knows. It would be more difficult to fly from Buffalo International for a Canadian domestic flight and there are only a limited number of direct flights, most stopping in either New York or Washington.

This advertising is still enticing more than travellers though, with the recent report of Sunwing Airlines chartering flights to Mexico and the Dominican Republic from Buffalo International, also taking advantage of the amount of Canadians travelling south for their flights.

A round-trip flight for one person going to Florida during March break works out to be $656 from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and $786 from the Toronto Pearson International Airport. While $130 may not seem like enough, maybe it’s not enough for you to take the drive down to Buffalo, it takes on a different meaning when learning that both flights arrive in Florida at 12:09 pm, on the same connecting flight from Washington. So why is one more expensive than the other?

For most people, the answer would simply be taxes. After all, Canadians pay more taxes than Americans do. In this case, they’re partially right. The taxes for the Buffalo to Orlando flight are $93 while the taxes for the Toronto to Orlando flight are $152. However, the actual air transportation charge is still more expensive from Toronto, $70 more.

Part of the reasons for the extra costs are the rising aviation fuel tax – proposed in the 2014 Liberal Ontario budget to be increased by 148 per cent over four years, from 2.7 cents to 6.7 cents – as well as the airport improvement tax that every traveler pays when stepping foot into Toronto Pearson.

The other reasons are seemingly unexplainable and unknown. For now, it’s just more expensive, and Canadians will either continue dealing with it, or they will take the two hour trip south to save a few hundred dollars.