FILE -- The Thunder Bay International Airport.
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THUNDER BAY -- The president of the city's airport says business might be better if they had the same competitive edge as their U.S. counterparts.
A recently released reported by Conference Board of Canada shows that more Canadians -- about 5 million every year -- are driving across the border into the U.S. to catch cheaper flights.
Thunder Bay Internatinoal Airport president Scott McFadden said that puts pressure on the local airport to find ways to influence ticket prices. Eliminating the airport improvement fee and having a low aeronautical fee were two ways the airport did that.
But that doesn't appear to be enough.
One of the biggest advantages American airlines have over their Canadian competition is federal funding. The American airlines receive it, while Canada's airlines do not.
“This is an issue of Canadian competitiveness,” McFadden said. “We know that we have a significant amount of people driving to Duluth and Minneapolis. The question then becomes how much better could the airport be doing if we weren’t competing with an airport that is currently getting about $65 million in state and federal funding."
He added that the Canadian rail receives billions in federal dollars, while the air transportation sector has been used by both the federal and provincial governments as a source for short-term cash.
“It’s not just the federal government but provincial government as well. It’s unfortunate because the air sector has a very significant impact in terms of job creation.”
McFadden said one daily flight with a 19-seat aircraft can create 33 full-time jobs, but unfortunately those jobs are in Duluth and in Minneapolis instead of Thunder Bay.
Despite the competitive advantage, McFadden said the airport is doing well. The airport is experiencing strong growth when compared to other Canadian airports. By the end of the year he said he expects they will have a record amount of passengers come through at more than 170,000.
United Airlines announced it would offer flights from Thunder Bay to its hub in Chicago starting next year.
Having those flights is believed to be more convenient for travelers who are opting to drive into the U.S. But keeping United will mean that the community has to support it.
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