MS: Hay River’s Sky High Airfares, part 1

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Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, recently, Yellowknife Tourism announced that they were giving away 150 trips to the Northwest Territories. Excuse me, Mr. Speaker – I misspoke. NWT Tourism, announced that it was giving away 150 trips to Yellowknife, well, 93% of the trips are to Yellowknife.

In a way, it’s almost hard to blame them. If I wanted to fly return from Hay River to Edmonton next week it would cost around $1400. It would cost half that if I was to fly out of Yellowknife. If I book a couple weeks in advance, a  return flight to Edmonton from Yellowknife is a third the cost of a flight from Hay River.  That’s the norm for southern destinations.  To put it another way, in the next two weeks, there are days that it’s actually cheaper to fly return from Yellowknife to Beijing, than from Hay River to Edmonton. Although Hay River is the rail, road, and river Hub of the Territory, Yellowknife is the air hub, so I understand that flights out of the Capital would be cheaper, but it shouldn’t cost 2 to 3 times as much to fly out of the Territories second biggest community.

These costs don’t just apply to flights to the south. If I wanted to fly return from Yellowknife to Hay River in the next couple of weeks, it would cost me around a thousand dollars. That’s almost 10 times more than it costs me to drive. I can understand why the proposed airport improvement fees are of concern to Yellowknifers – they’ve become accustomed to reasonably priced flights. For those of us from Hay River, the 2% increase in ticket prices isn’t the concern, our concerns is the $1000 cost for a 25 minute flight.

Mr. Speaker, not only does the cost of airline tickets make it prohibitive for almost everyone in Hay River to fly anywhere, it virtually guarantees that none of the 30,000 tourists that fly into Yellowknife every year, will make the trip to Hay River.

The only entity that seems to be able to afford to fly elsewhere in the Territory is the GNWT. Now, I believe that a fair and free market should determine prices, but preferential policies and agreements for government and medical travel are distorting the market and those of us outside Yellowknife are the ones who bear the brunt of the negative effects of these policies.

Mr. Speaker, this has been a problem for far too long.  this is one of those issues that is bigger than a single, two and a half minute member statement – we’re just scratching the surface – so consider this part one of many on this topic, and stay tuned for much more.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.