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Snowbirds Continue Trek South for Cheaper Airfares

January 10, 2015 8:56 AM | Columns

By Roger Currie

Being semi-retired and living within my means these days, I don’t travel that much. When I did, the airports I knew best were in Winnipeg and Regina. Both facilities have been blessed with strong management, by a couple of former military guys, Barry Rempel in Winnipeg, and Jim Hunter in Regina. Jim used to be the No. 2 man at NORAD in Colorado. I think he has the right to be called “The General” for the rest of his life, but that’s not the Canadian way.

Both airports are close to the community, making it remarkably easy to come and go, but in many ways they’re fighting a losing battle for passengers heading south, especially at this time of year.

By driving a couple of hours to Grand Forks or Minot in North Dakota, snowbirds from Manitoba and Saskatchewan can literally reduce the cost of their trip by hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Part of it is the fact that U.S.-based airlines tend to be more competitive because they serve a larger population.

More important is the attitude of governments at all levels. Included in the total cost for a Canadian traveller by the time they are buckled in and ready for take off are portions of the cost of airport security, landing fees, air traffic control, fuel surcharges and airport improvement fees. The total cost is much less when flying out of Minot and Grand Forks.

The two Canadian airports, and many others across this country, are losing millions in revenue each year. The people who make decisions in Ottawa are fully aware of the situation, and they choose to do nothing about it — because they can, it seems. The spinoff impacts for tourism and other industries are enormous. Smile as you cross that border heading south, and keep a good thought for Barry Rempel and the General.

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Roger Currie is a writer, storyteller, voice for hire, observer of life on the Canadian prairies, and can be heard on CJNU 93.7FM in Winnipeg.