Buffalo Niagara International Airport, which garnered almost half its passenger traffic from Canada last year, is seeking to attract even more Canadians.
The taxes and fees airlines add to Canadian tickets, congestion around Toronto Pearson International Airport and the additional time it takes to get through security and customs helped push Canadian traffic to about 46 per cent of the 5.5 million passengers the Buffalo airport handled last year, Pascal Cohen, senior manager of marketing and aviation business development for Buffalo Niagara International Airport, said Tuesday in Toronto. That compares with 26 per cent in 2006.
Mr. Cohen was in Toronto as part of a marketing and public relations pitch the airport is making to Canadians, which includes a four-week television ad campaign that will begin on CTV next month.
The campaign is gearing up amid complaints from Canadian airlines and officials of Ontario airports about an increase in the aviation fuel tax the Ontario government imposed on airlines in its budget in July. The tax will rise to 6.7 cents a litre by April, 2017, from 2.7 cents.
Given the more than 30 million passengers who travel through Pearson annually, the tax is relatively insignificant, Mr. Cohen maintained, but it adds to Pearson's status as one of the most expensive airports in North America for both passengers and the airlines that fly through there.
His research shows that airlines pay an average of $35 in fees a passenger at Pearson, compared with $8.55 in Buffalo.
"These costs are really what is driving up the ticket price," he said.
A search for flights on the websites of Air Canada, United Airlines and WestJet Airlines Ltd. revealed taxes and fees for the Canadian carriers that were more than twice those of United.
Air Canada and WestJet non-stop flights to Orlando, Fla., – a popular destination for Canadians flying out of Buffalo – revealed taxes and fees of $139 and $136 respectively.
Travellers flying to Orlando from Buffalo via Washington face fees of $50.
A family of four travelling to Orlando can save more than $500 by travelling through Buffalo, Mr. Cohen said.
"Buffalo is an option for travellers and, over all, we feel that the more people who are looking to travel, the better it is for the industry as a whole," Scott Armstrong, a spokesman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said in an e-mail response to Mr. Cohen's comments.
While Buffalo seeks to attract more Canadians, the transborder airline battle – most of which involves Canadians travelling to and from the United States – is heating up.
Toronto-based Porter Airlines Inc. announced an interline agreement earlier this month with low-cost U.S. carrier JetBlue Airways Corp. that will allow Porter passengers to transfer to JetBlue flights out of Boston.
Canadian charter carrier Sunwing Airlines will begin offering charter flights out of Buffalo to Mexico and the Dominican Republic next year, although Mr. Cohen said he believes those flights are aimed mainly at Americans.
Dallas-based Southwest Airlines Inc., which established the low-cost model on which WestJet and JetBlue are based, has said it is examining Canada as a potential destination and has had discussions with Canadian airport officials.