Cost of domestic flights remains at a six year low
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Cost of domestic flights remains at a six year low

OTTAWA — The average domestic airfare on major Canadian airlines remained at a six-year low in the third quarter of 2015, according to the latest figures from Statistics Canada, although that might come as a surprise to travellers.

In its report this week, the agency said a one-way domestic flight cost on average $175.70 before fees and taxes, down from 187.60 a year earlier.

International fares edged up by just 60 cents, from $340.60 to $341.20.

Statistics Canada says the $12 drop in domestic prices allowed Canada’s overall rates to remain at their lowest levels in six years.

The figures are based on WestJet, Air Transat and Air Canada and its subsidiaries.

However, the total cost of a ticket still remains high, as airport improvement fees, fuel surcharges, security fees and other charges are constantly on the rise.

Marc-Andre O’Rourke, executive director of the Ottawa-based National Airlines Council of Canada, says those extra fees may keep consumers from seeing the low base-fare reflected in the total cost.

“All those fees, airlines have no control over; government and agencies adding their own fees to the airfare,” he says.

O’Rourke, whose group represents Canada’s major airlines, says carriers are doing what they can to keep ticket prices down but have little control over what consumers actually end up paying for a flight.

“The frustrating part is that our member airlines are doing their part to keep their prices competitive, but then we have these third-party taxes and fees that piggyback on the airfare that affect the total that the passenger pays,” O’Rourke says, adding that ticket prices are not directly correlated to fuel prices.

But Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at the Royal Bank of Canada, says the weakened energy sector does put downward pressure on air fares.

“Generally, air fares respond fairly quickly to movements in oil prices,” he says.

While low oil prices hurt those drawing wages from the energy sector, low air fares are a “clear benefit” to most Canadian households, he says.

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