As demand increases and airfares reach new highs, many Canadians are looking for travel deals this year.
And the low prices are out there, especially for domestic flights.
“In general, prices for flights to almost anywhere have gone up, especially over the past three months,” said Chris Myden, founder and CEO of Ydeals Inc., a Vancouver-based travel site.
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But with increased competition between local carriers, travel within Canada is the exception.
Round-trip domestic flights for 2023 averaged $294 last week, up 16% from the same period last year, but still 15% below the 2019 average of $354 , according to Montreal-based travel data firm Hopper Inc.
“Not too long ago you had a choice of two airlines between Toronto and Vancouver, and the standard price was around $500 to $600 round trip including tax,” Myden said.
Today, six carriers operate the same route: Air Canada, WestJet, Flair Airlines, Lynx Air, Canada Jetlines and, since last month, Porter Airlines.
Last week, Flair and Lynx – the two budget carriers – offered return flights between Toronto and Vancouver at the end of April for $147, while Air Canada and WestJet’s Swoop fetched prices as low as $295 and $143, respectively. Prices are roughly in line with Ydeals averages for this year.
Myden noted that low-cost airline prices do not include carry-on baggage. “Surprise, surprise, that works out to about $250 with one piece of luggage, like the bigger carriers.”
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Smaller budget airline fleets can also mean fewer options in the event of a cancellation, with some passengers being rebooked a few days later on less frequent routes. Meanwhile, the most basic tickets of most airlines do not allow any changes or cancellations by the customer, even for a fee.
Another high-traffic route, Vancouver-Calgary, in late April was offering round trips between $94 and $145 on the two low-cost carriers last week, and $137 and $141 for Air Canada and WestJet, respectively.
“Nationally, prices are in good shape for consumers, at least through June,” said John Gradek, a lecturer in aviation management at McGill University.
Even if demand increases, Canada’s seat capacity is not expected to reach 2019 levels this year, barely exceeding 80% at the moment, but stabilizing at 95% in the second half of 2023, as increased supply should drive prices down, according to TD Cowen analyst Helane Becker said.
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Although flights abroad are more expensive than in the past, there are still a few deals to be had.
“There have been some gems recently in Mexico, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica,” Myden said. “For destinations outside of Canada, great prices have certainly been rare since November.”
Airfares to Asia are averaging $1,475 for a round trip, a 97% jump since 2019 and the biggest increase from pre-pandemic levels compared to other regions, according to Hopper.
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“Of all international regions, the United States ($368) remains the best relative offer, with prices only 12% higher than before the pandemic,” Hopper spokeswoman Ellie Breslin said in a statement. E-mail.
With increasingly stretched wallets, potential travelers can use a range of means to navigate higher prices.
Flexibility is useful when you’re looking to save money, as the times you choose to book and travel – and the airport of departure – can play a key role in the cost.
Weekends are often more expensive and flights scheduled for early morning and late evening are often cheaper as fewer people want to fly at that time.
Duncan Dee, former chief operating officer of Air Canada, recommends traveling off-season rather than during the summer months, or considering less desirable locations, such as Latin America during the summer in Canada.
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Booking one to three months in advance for local flights and three to four months for international flights can also yield cheaper fares, he said. However, “dynamic pricing” means there are no hard and fast rules, as the algorithms respond to demand and booking curves on the fly.
Alternate airports are a way to circumvent attentive algorithms. Those in Hamilton, Ontario, Buffalo and Plattsburgh, New York, and Abbotsford, British Columbia may have more acceptable prices and fewer delays.
For those looking for packages, Marie-Pier Guilmette, owner of Inspirations Voyage travel agency in Gatineau, Que., said all-inclusive trips often cost $300 more per person than they did a year ago.
“For families, it’s a lot of money,” she says.
A week-long trip to an all-inclusive four-star Cuban hotel in March would now cost two visitors between $1,600 and $2,000. The Dominican Republic would cost a few hundred dollars more.
Hotel-flight packages to Rome in the fall would cost between $1,800 and $2,300 for a week at a three-star property, she said.
“For Europe, the price of flights is more expensive and you have to book well in advance.”
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