Record traffic spikes cost of domestic holiday flights

The cost to fly within Canada could be a lot pricier this holiday season due to a shortage of airline seats.

Flights to Sydney, N.S., from Calgary can cost a staggering $2,700

Expensive flights

10 years ago
Duration 2:12
Flights out of Calgary during Christmas are getting more expensive.

The cost to fly within Canada could be a lot pricier this holiday season because of a shortage of airline seats.

Air Canada and WestJet Airlines both flew their planes with record percentages of the seats full in October as passenger traffic increased with only slight increases in capacity.

Airline consultant Robert Kokonis says fewer empty seats means they're worth more.

"Airlines can and will price higher," Kokonis said.

This Christmas it costs around $2,200 to fly from Calgary to Hong Kong — the same price as flying from Calgary to Charlottetown, P.E.I. (iStock)

This Christmas, some of the cheaper flights from Calgary to Hong Kong cost $2,200 — the same price as flying from Calgary to Charlottetown, P.E.I., on peak days.

While flights vary in prices, some of the cheapest return flights on peak days available from Calgary to Sydney, N.S., are a staggering $2,700.

Traveller James Walsh says the high prices are hard to justify.

"It's really annoying, but I think maybe the people who are setting the prices are aware of what we're willing to do to travel at this time of the year," Walsh said.

Senator Terry Mercer sits on the Senate's transportation committee, which is studying why air travel is so expensive in rural and remote parts of the country.

"The lack of competition is driving the price up," Mercer said.

To save money, roughly two million Canadians will drive to the U.S. each year to catch flights.

Both Air Canada and WestJet have posted high revenues because of higher prices and traffic.

But cheaper regional flights could be on the horizon once WestJet launches its new regional airline Encor, as Air Canada says it will try to compete with those prices.

Listen to CBC Eyeopener host David Gray's interview with an airline analyst about what it means for consumers.