David Tait, the executive chairman of Flair Airlines (F8, Kelowna), has said that there should be a limit to how much Canada's airports can charge carriers in Airport Improvement Fees (AIFs), as they push up fares and encourage passengers to fly from cheaper airports over the border in the United States.

The Canadian government should pass a law to cap the amount airports can charge in AIFs, fees which airlines are forced to fold into airfares, Tait told the weekly journal Business in Vancouver.

Flair converted from a charter carrier to an LCC in June 2018 and wants to keep its base fares as low as possible. But higher airport fees in Canada have the indirect result of passengers from British Columbia driving across the border to fly instead from Bellingham, which has lower fees, Tait claimed.

Although a few airports in Canada, such as Abbotsford, do not have AIFs at all, Canada’s main metropolitan airports do. Among the examples Tait provided were Vancouver Int'l where they are CAD20 Canadian dollars (USD15.24), Toronto Pearson (CAD25), Halifax (CAD28), and Edmonton Int'l and Calgary (both CAD30). The equivalent south of the border is half the cost, he protested.

“The US equivalent to AIFs is Passenger Facility Charges (PFCs), however these are federally limited to USD4.50 per segment and can, if desired, be charged by both point of departure and point of arrival airports for a maximum of USD9 per one-way segment,” he said.

US airports must report how they use their PFC funds, Tait added, such as on terminal improvements, runway expansions, and road access.

But Canadian airports have a different business model, Brock Penner, head of corporate communications at Vancouver Airport Authority, told Business in Vancouver.

“Vancouver Airport Authority is a community-based, not-for-profit organisation and we receive no money from the government to operate the airport,” he said. “The AIF [...] is collected to support capital infrastructure projects like runways and terminals to ensure we have a safe and efficient airport.”