Improvements at Calgary International Airport Trigger Jump in Airline Fees

Posted by Alan Zunec on Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 at 2:44pm.

The Calgary International Airport is in the midst of a $2 billion facelift, and passengers flying out of that facility are going to be paying a considerable part of that bill. Beginning in March of 2013, the airport will be charging an airport improvement fee of $30 on any flight that originates in Calgary. Currently that charge is $25. The charge is part of your ticket price.

Fort McMurray and Calgary will then share the second-highest airport improvement charges in Canada. The top honors still go to Bathurst in New Brunswick, which tacks on a $40 fee to every flight originating from that locale.

The improvement fees in Calgary already saw an increase in 2011, when the $22 per ticket fee went to the current $25. Jody Moseley noted that the increases are needed to help pay for the expansion of the airport, currently underway. That project includes a larger runway, targeted for completion in 2014, and the addition of a state of the art international terminal, expected to be up and running by sometime in 2015.

Moseley noted that Calgary is the only airport in Canada currently undergoing such extensive renovations. The federal government does not cover any of the costs, even though when finished the project will benefit the entire province. The addition of the new terminal, slated for United States and other international flights, will double the size of the Calgary International Airport. The longer runway can accommodate larger planes, allowing direct and/or non-stop flights to more destinations. The additional runway also increases the total flight capacity of the airport, giving Calgary greater hub status and passenger capacity. So far the improvement projects are progressing right on time and are on budget.

Passengers at Calgary had varying reactions to the fee hike. Some thought the increase was excessive and perhaps would make flying unaffordable for some leisure travelers. Others were pleased that Calgary was doing improvements and understood they had to be paid for.

There is no denying that many Canadians living close to the border opt to drive to the United States to fly out of that country because it is generally less expensive. In Canada, there is no government subsidy for airports and those facilities’ costs must be passed on to the flyers. The United States government, which does subsidize most of its airports, also regulates the fees an airport may add to its airline ticket prices.  In some cases airline tickets out of the United States can be as much as 30 percent less expensive.

The money that is collected goes to the Federal Aviation Authority which distributes the funding among the airports. What Calgary collects, Calgary keeps, in this case for its construction and improvement costs. When the airport is finished Calgary will be able to attract more visitors from foreign climes arriving on larger planes, which is good for the tourist industry and the city as a whole. At the same time, the ability to transport cargo will also be noticeably increased, another plus for the city. Both of these far outweigh the cost.

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