Roots Air charges Air Canada with predatory pricing

Roots Air has yet to fly a single mile, but add its name to the list of airlines charging Air Canada with predatory pricing.

Roots Air said Thursday it has filed a formal complaint with the Competition Bureau of Industry Canada charging Air Canada's predatory fare pricing on two start-up routes that will be flown by the upstart carrier.

Roots has asked the Competition Bureau to order Air Canada to rescind the fares on the Toronto-Calgary and Toronto-Vancouver routes. The new airline is due to start serving those two routes later this month.

"There is no other imaginable reason for dropping these fares other than to deliberately strike at a new, service oriented player that's a real threat to their market dominance," Ted Shetzen, Roots Air executive vice-president and chief commercial officer.

Air Canada's new three-day advance purchase fare between Toronto and Calgary was dropped to $909. But the fare to Edmonton, where Roots Air won't be flying, remains at $1903.

Meanwhile, a Toronto-Vancouver flight can be had for $999, while a trip from Toronto to Winnipeg costs $1388, Roots Air said.

The new airline is also accussing Air Canada of dragging its feet in granting Roots Air passengers access to Aeroplan frequent flyer points, something Air Canada was required to do in accordance with the terms and conditions of their merger with Canadian Airlines.

The complaint adds to Air Canada's issues with federal regulators.

Earlier this week, the federal Competition Bureau applied to the Competition Tribunal for an order prohibiting Air Canada from offering certain cut-rate fares in eastern Canada.

Halifax-based CanJet and Calgary-based WestJet had complained that Air Canada's deep-discount pricing on routes in which they competed with Air Canada was "predatory". The smaller airlines say the fares were meant to force them out of business.

Last October, the Competition Bureau ordered Air Canada to stop offering deeply-discounted fares on five routes in eastern Canada.

In related news, the Canadian Transportation Agency on Wednesday ordered Air Canada to almost halve the lowest return fares on one of its routes, calling them "unreasonable".

The CTA made the ruling on Air Canada's Prince Rupert to Vancouver route - a route in which Air Canada had no competition.

Acting on a complaint from a passenger, the CTA found that the lowest return fare on that route was $398. The agency found that the lowest return fares Air Canada charged on a similar-length route between Winnipeg and Saskatoon - a route where Air Canada has competition - was $200 to $230, depending on the day of travel.