Rights & Money

Your Next Trip May Cost Less Than You Expect

Competition among airlines could lead to big travel savings

By Matt Smith 

Canada may have a reputation as one of the most expensive countries in which to fly, but things are looking up for travellers. While airfare prices aren’t quite in free fall, new competition in the airways might just mean a lower fare the next time you fly. Both WestJet and Air Canada now offer “basic economy” fares on select flights—no-frills seats for a greatly discounted price.

While the concept may be new to Canadians, it’s been around in the United States for a while, with Delta, United, and American Airlines all offering this type of pricing. For Air

Canada, it’s called “economy basic,” and WestJet terms it “econo (lowest).” As the names suggest, flights at this price point are lacking in amenities, and any add-ons cost extra. You aren’t eligible for a refund if you cancel your trip, and you can’t change flights. Seat reservations and checked baggage are extras, although both carriers allow you one carry-on bag.

Thrifty travellers now have the option of flying on a new airline, as well. Swoop, WestJet’s new ultra low-cost carrier, first took to the skies on June 20. Advertising flights for as low as $39, Swoop has a pricing structure is similar to the basic economy options discussed above. By default, your ticket just covers the price of a seat, with additional amenities available for an added cost.

The airline currently offers service only between smaller airports in Abbotsford, BC, Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, and Winnipeg, with the promise of expanding to other cities within the year. These smaller airports don’t charge the fees more major centres do, which helps to keep cost down.

Swoop isn’t the only ultra low-cost carrier operating out of Canada: Wow Air offers service to Europe from Montreal and Toronto at very affordable rates, and Flair Airlines serves Western Canada out of Abbotsford. Another ultra low-cost carrier, Canada Jetlines, aims to take to the air soon, as well.

Photo: iStock/Yuri_Arcurs.