The Consumers’ Association of Canada is urging Ottawa not to allow Air Canada to have a veto over additional flights by Emirates Airways.
Association president Bruce Cran wrote Transport Minister John Baird pushing him to proceed with the government’s open skies agenda.
The group argues the policy would force Canada’s airlines to compete against the world’s best, especially on the expensive international routes.
Cran said consumers would benefit from lower prices and better service if increased airline competition is encouraged.
Emirates wants to increase its direct flights between Canada and the Middle East beyond the three flights a week between Toronto and Dubai offered since October 2007. The addition of a double-decker A380 would increase the route capacity.
But Air Canada has objected to increased service to Toronto or other gateways. And the Air Canada Pilots Association has said the move could threaten the Montreal airline’s tenuous financial situation, and push it into bankruptcy protection.
But Cran told the minister that consumer interests should come before those of Air Canada.
“Giving Air Canada a veto over who gets to operate in Canada is an endorsement of their cartel-like behaviour,” he wrote in a letter dated Friday.
Additional flights by Emirates would give Canadian consumers more choice to Dubai, as well as destinations in the Middle East and North Africa that aren’t being served by domestic Canadian carriers.
Refusing to open these routes to foreign carriers effectively forces Canadians onto the Air Canada/Star Alliance route network, where they would have to fly to London, Chicago or Frankfurt to get to the Middle East, Africa or Asia.
The association said it receives the most complaints about Air Canada.
The allegations of anti-competitive practices are in addition to general anti-consumer behaviour, Cran said.
He said it’s unfortunate that it took a Canadian Transportation Agency ruling before Air Canada was forced to change its lost of damaged luggage policy.