A new jet fuel tax rebate for some international passenger flights could be the ticket for Manitobans who want to fly overseas.
Starting on July 1, airlines that offer non-stop international flights from the province can take advantage of the rebate, which will save them 3.2 cents a litre on jet fuel purchased here.
Manitoba already has a fuel tax rebate for international cargo flights, but this week's provincial budget extends it to passenger flights, Premier Greg Selinger said Friday.
"If you get one flight a week from Winnipeg to London, that creates 70 additional jobs in Manitoba, so that's a positive story for economic growth and job creation in Manitoba," he said.
The rebate does not apply to charter flights or to passenger flights going to the mainland United States, Mexico and the Caribbean. It will apply to flights to and from Hawaii.
Officials hope the rebate will encourage airlines to offer more non-stop flights to more European and Asian destinations — including a much-talked-about non-stop flight to the Philippines.
"We think that there's going to be interest in international destinations such as India, such as the Philippines, such as Europe, of course, London," Selinger said.
Airport authority eyes Manila service
The Winnipeg Airports Authority has been eyeing non-stop flights to the Philippines given the province's large Filipino population, which has more than 70,000 people.
An airport spokesperson told CBC News that Philippine Airlines currently offers direct flights from Vancouver, Toronto and New York to Manila several times a week.
"We would like to attract either a non-stop or a direct flight to Manila. We're interested in adding service to a number of cities, and Manila is certainly high on our list," the spokesperson said in an email.
Contessa Benson, general manager of Sarbit Insurance and Travel Agency in Winnipeg, said the local Filipino community has been asking for direct flights for a while.
"There's a lot of families that travel together with their children, who were born here that want to visit the Philippines, so it's better for families to travel on a direct flight," she said.
Benson added that seniors wanting to fly to Manila would benefit from direct flights "because they're not dealing with baggage connections, lost baggage, and also the fact that they may be speaking only Tagalog with a slight amount of English in their vocabularies."
'A starting point,' says travel agent
Ron Pradniuk, who owns Journeys Travel, says the fuel tax rebate could convince some airlines to offer non-stop flights abroad from Winnipeg.
"It's a starting point," he said. "If they get one successful conversion, there's more jobs, there's more opportunity and it will be a good thing."
Pradniuk said if airlines take advantage of the rebate, Manitobans will have to step up and fill the planes.
"I think over the summer we can fill flights," he said.
"Can we fill flights in wintertime? I don't know about that, but I would sure look forward to seeing that opportunity because I think that Manitobans have asked for a long time for more international flights."
The fuel tax rebate was one highlight of the 2015 budget, introduced on Thursday.
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It also proposes a new tax credit for volunteer firefighters and search and rescue personnel, as well as expansions of existing credits for seniors and voluntary caregivers.