Charging Canadians to fly to America

Extrait de: Charging Canadians to fly to America , Gulliver, The Economist, F25th 2011, 11:08

GIVEN the myriad fees already imposed by Canada's government and airlines on passengers, another one should hardly rankle.

But the American government's proposed $5.50 inspection fee for Canadian flyers has prompted plenty of squawking. "The problem is that it's just one more of a thousand paper-cuts that are hurting the competitiveness of our Canadian air travel industry," said Daniel-Robert Gooch, communications director of the Canadian Airports Council, which represents more than 200 airports. Birgit Matthiesen, of the Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, Canada's largest trade and industry association, said: "The raising of any fees on the Canada-US border is troubling." And a new poll suggests 64% of Canadians would favour imposing a fee on visiting Americans if the US inspection fee is enacted.

Even Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister, has weighed in, saying a flight fee is not a useful way for the US to raise revenue. This criticism is somewhat ironic given that Mr Harper's government seems to believe passenger fees are indeed a great way to generate revenue. Among the fees Canada and its agencies charge are an C$8 ($8.1) security charge per passenger each way on cross-border flights and C$7.50 each way on cross-border flights to cover NAV Canada services.

But the proposed inspection fee, which was introduced in the 2012 US budget, is not actually a new one, but rather an end to an exemption air and marine travellers from Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean have enjoyed since 1997. Some 16m Canadians fly to the US every year, so the fee would raise about $90m from Canada alone—chump change given America's projected $1.6 trillion budget deficit for 2012.

A recent survey by the Hotel Association of Canada showed that 21% of Canadians drove to an American airport last year to benefit from cheaper airline tickets for US or foreign travel, up from 18% in 2009. It's unlikely that another $5.50 fee will stem that traffic.